Saturday, January 31, 2009

T in The Park: Like Oxegen, but slightly different

Hey, if the idea if Kings Of Leon and Snow Patrol headlining Oxegen wasn't exciting enough, the announcement of headliners for T In The Park is going to make you wear out your caps-shift and 1 keys.

Yes, it's Snow Patrol and Kings Of Leon!!!!!!

Along with Katy Perry.

The festival's boss Geoff Ellis revealed the names to the Daily Record, in response to internet rumours about the line-up.

"We're delighted. Kings Of Leon are the hottest property at the moment. We're ecstatic at having locked them in. Snow Patrol are Scotland's biggest band at the moment," Ellis told the newspaper.

The Kings Of Leon are the hottest property right now - it's so true, especially if you don't think about any of the other bands a bit like them who sell more records. And it's lucky that despite being so hot, they've got plenty of time available in their diaries to play seemingly every field in the nation.


[This post sponsored by Concerned Citizens For A Less Cynical No Rock And Roll Fun]

MTV2 axes most of its programming

Apart from Gonzo - which is safe (for now) - it appears that MTV have dropped all UK programming from MTV2, thinning down further the credibility of an already-dented portfolio.

Silver Jews weekend: Random Rules

Live at the wonderful BlueBird in Denver:

[Part of The Silver Jews weekend]

Now that's a barely-thought out idea

Simon Fuller is trying to turn Now That's What I Call Music into a TV show, reports Billboard. How do you turn 'some recent hit records' into a TV show, exactly? Sure, you could just play some recent hit records, but that's not quite a format, is it?

"The TV show is designed to take the brand 'Now' and bring it to a broader level," says Bob Mercer, CEO of Now That's What I Call Music, a partnership involving Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and EMI Music. (Warner Music Group has a competing product called "Only Hits.")

"A lot of people are buying 'Now' as their guide to what is happening in the music world over the last few months," Mercer says. "The intent is to take that brand and that trust in that brand and establish it as a TV show with the same elements."

Bob, mate: if you think people buy Now albums as a "guide to what's happening" - rather than as a cheap way of hoovering up a lot of hits they already know they like - you might want to step down from developing a programme based on the brand.
That, he suggests, could mean featuring performances by artists from the compilations, whether through concert footage or in-studio appearances. "We'll probably form our own pop chart so the public can be involved," Mercer adds.

Ah, yes. It'd be a great idea to make a pop chart of your own - where the public can show what music they like - rather than, erm, using an existing pop chart which shows what music the public likes.
Another element of the show would involve appearances by such veteran acts as the Rolling Stones or Madonna, possibly through interviews, performance footage or in-studio appearances, he says.

Oh yes. Interviews with the Rolling Stones. That would be exactly what someone whose defining musical purchase is to buy a compilation of recent chart hits would want to watch on television. "Wow, hearing some crumbly old dude talking about playing songs before my parents were born really captures the spirit of getting an album with Britney Spears and Lady GaGa hits on it."

Having spent some time stressing that - although coming from the American Idol stable, this programme would be in no way like American Idol at all, Bob then reveals his master stroke:
The program's final aspect would involve finding the next "Now" artists, Mercer says: "That would be new up-and-coming talent that's either already signed or just as likely not already signed."

And how would you find these bands - by having a team of experts go out and listen to groups and singers in clubs and bars? Or... and here's a guess... would this be some sort of interactive strap on?
The show's Web site will play a critical role in its development, Mercer says, adding that a section of it will be devoted to videos that people upload of themselves trying out for the show.

Ah. So, that's creaky old acts being interviewed, people you've never heard of doing songs you don't know - it's almost as if you'd taken the simple 'chart music with all the dull stuff edited out' format of Now and deliberately tried to create a TV show that was the polar opposite.

Simon Fuller, though, has one final pitch to throw onto the table:
"'Now' is a good, existing example of the music industry working together," Fuller says. "This show will unite the whole music industry and give it one voice."

So, let's just examine that: The music industry is united in working on the Now records. And yet, somehow, they're not united, because they need a television show to do that. That makes... some sort of sense. Probably.

It's a touching idea, though, that the music industry needs to be united. Who knows, if this is a success, perhaps this previously dissolute business sector might think about forming some sort of permanent representative organisation to act as an umbrella group for their interests. Let's just hope if that happens they don't go insane with the power and start trying to sue their own customers or anything.

Mini Liveblog: Your Country Needs You

So, after six weeks, it's time for the three finalists to battle out it to represent the UK in Eurovision. Sorry, did I say battle it out? It's more a limp-off.

Who have we got to choose from? There's Jade, who is like an attempt to build a Leona Lewis out of Mariah Carey's make-up bag. There's Mark, who could very well get chosen out of a Buzzcocks line-up if they were looking for one out of Blue. And there are The Twins, who are twins. And only a little reminiscent of those White Power twins who were on the tv a while back.

The votes are just coming in: Graham Norton is trying to get an air of excitement building.

Mark's number three - which is lucky, his estate agency probably would need him to do a Saturday shift the weekend of the event anyway.

The winner is... of course, there's a bloody long gap, because this is a reality show and you can't just say who won without giving a pause; if this carries on returning officers will start doing it in council elections - "Therefore I declare... ... ... ... the Conservative candidate duly elected to represent Barley Row and Goldenham."... The winner is Jade. She does a quick reprise of the song, as someone empties the foil recycling box on her head. And she sobs. And sobs. And sobs.

Of course, it's nice to be sent to represent the UK, but it's not like we're going to win with this one. Sure, Lloyd Webber has written it, but he's barely written a decent song since Evita and this sounds like something that he'd originally planned to pad out a Never On A Sunday rather than, say, bring Jesus Christ Superstar to a peak. And you have a sneaking feeling Marti Webb could have made something a little more out of the bag-of-bones song than Jade is going to manage.

Incidentally: Lloyd Webber's bags are now gathering so badly under his eyes that they're starting to have to move out onto his cheeks to make room.

Silver Jews weekend: Dallas

Live in London - at ULU, to be precise - The Silver Jews play Dallas:

[Part of The Silver Jews weekend]

Legal peer-to-peer torpedoed by majors

For quite a while now, there have been mutterings that a high-level UK ISP was about to offer a broadband product which monetised peer-to-peer sharing. If it's not been quite the Holy Grail, the idea has been sought like it was some other cup that Jesus might have used at some point.

And Virgin - the cable-operating business - was about to offer one. But now the plans have been axed:

However, 11th hour "anti-piracy" demands by major record labels including Universal Music and Sony Music meant Virgin could no longer launch the service as it had envisaged. Labels demanded that Virgin block uploads and downloads of songs from subscribers' PCs, sources suggest. Since the system is designed to encourage file sharing, the demand removed the service's USP.

Yes, it would rather, wouldn't it?

In effect, then, the conversation would have gone something like this:

Music industry: We are worried that people are using peer-to-peer networks to take music without paying for it
Virgin: We have technology that can track what people are sharing; if you like, we could charge people a fee for peer-to-peer sharing, and reward you and your artists for activity that would otherwise happen anyway, but without you getting any money
Music industry: That's brilliant. Make it so.
Virgin: Right, here we go then...
Music industry: Hang on a moment, though - could you just make a small tweak to stop people doing the uploading and downloading bit?
Virgin: You mean you want us to launch a service that legalises uploading and downloading, and makes sure everyone gets compensated - but without the ability to upload or download?
Music industry: Yes, that's it.

It's like watching people trying to put out a fire, but refusing to put down their buckets of petrol while they do so, isn't it?

Do you think, Bruce?

Bruce Springsteen has admitted that, on balance, he shouldn't have tied up with WalMart, telling the New York Times:

Mr. Springsteen said the decision was made too hastily. “We were in the middle of doing a lot of things, it kind of came down and, really, we didn’t vet it the way we usually do,” he said. “We just dropped the ball on it.” Instead of offering the exclusive collection to Wal-Mart, “given its labor history, it was something that if we’d thought about it a little longer, we’d have done something different.” He added, “It was a mistake. Our batting average is usually very good, but we missed that one. Fans will call you on that stuff, as it should be.”

Hmm. You could just about see that if there were dozens of deals, with numerous regional chains, that one or two dodgy arrangements might sneak through. But suddenly realising "oh, hang about, our album is only being sold through a chain which is known for locking staff in overnight, and is profoundly hostile to unionisation" is on a par with waking up the morning after and yelling "but who knew Dick Emery was actually a man?"

Still, at least Bruce is admitting the error. Earlier, as the Times notes, there was a pathetic attempt to try and pretend there was nothing to see here:
In an interview with Billboard, Mr. Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, defended the release, saying Mr. Springsteen’s albums were already in Wal-Mart, which accounts for 15 percent of his sales. He also said: “We’re not doing any advertising for Wal-Mart. We haven’t endorsed Wal-Mart or anybody else. We’re letting Sony do its job.”

Ah, yes. Granting exclusive access to your album doesn't mean anything. In much the same way that just because I call you up, you shouldn't think you've got it made.

Why does Landau think the stores cut these lucrative exclusive deals with acts if they don't think it's going to bring extra footfall into their stores and boost sales at the tills?

WalMart are now a bit testy, issuing a hurt statement:
"Millions of Springsteen fans have counted on Wal-Mart over the years to deliver his music into their lives, and we will continue to offer those fans this 'Greatest Hits' exclusive and his other popular albums at unbeatable prices," Wal-Mart said in a statement, adding: "We are proud of the good jobs, benefits and career opportunities we provide to more than 1.4 million U.S. associates who choose to work at Wal-Mart and serve our customers every day."

And, they somehow forgot to add, just before Christmas they settled simply loads of the outstanding 73 class-action lawsuits brought alleging violations of laws on working hours and overtime payments. And, hey, with 1.4 million workers, it's not surprising that a Minnesota judge would have found two million violations of law by forcing staff to work "off the clock" or without breaks. You know, that's less than two violations per head, if you average it out. No wonder WalMart are proud.

Silver Jews weekend: How To Rent A Room

Don't call it a bootleg, call it verite: This from a live performance at The Grey Eagle, in Ashville, New Carolina:

[Part of The Silver Jews weekend]

Mozzer: My eyes! My eyes!

With the horrific possibility that to McFly, Lily Allen and Beth Ditto we might soon be welcoming people Googling for Morrissey naked - and with the strict warning that it's Not Safe For Anyone Who Has Recently Eaten - we're compelled to point to Morrissey-Solo's photo of Mozzer and his band nude, save for seven inch singles. With the words "click to enlarge" right underneath.

One of the band - on the extreme right - looks like he should have got a twelve inch remix. But it's fun with this sort of thing to spot the person who was least thrilled when they found out what the plan for the photoshoot was - I'm guessing the guy with the "oh, god, just take the bloody photo" look on his face to Morrissey's right.

With penises strapped to vinyl discs, there is some sort of needledick gag just waiting to be made, isn't there?

The picture is on the inner-sleeve of I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris, if you'd like to enjoy it in the privacy of your own home without having to worry about those new rules on extreme online porn.

David Gedge gets some brass for Brassneck

Interesting plans afoot for David Gedge: As part of the Fuseleeds Festival, he's planning to do some of his songs backed by the BBC Big Band. April 29th is the day set aside.

Embed and Breakfast man: The Silver Jews

With The Silver Jews coming to an end, what better time could there be for a look back over their career?

The obvious answer to that question would be "when they were still a going concern", but can we pretend I was being rhetorical?

The band have actually racked up twenty years, which is quite impressive, although they have managed to churn through almost as many members in that time. David Berman is the only member to have carried his bat - which is why his decision to wrap up marks the end.

A band so loved by their fans, it's appropriate to start with a fan-made video, I think. This is from the Bright Flight album, their first major work after Stephen Malkmus decided to focus his extra-Pavement curricular activities on The Jicks:

Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
American Water
Bright Flight
American documentary DVD

More Silver Jews online
On Drag City Records
Village Voice: The Evolution of The Silver Jews
Last FM
Daytrotter: An appreciation

Further Silver Jews video action across the weekend
How To Rent A Room - live
Dallas - live
Random Rules - live
How Can I Love You If You Won't Lie Down?
I'm Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You

Gordon in the morning: Flogging H.Bauer's Magazines

Not only has Gordon's team somehow got really confused and concluded that reproducing the cover of this month's FHM is some sort of exclusive, but it seems a little late to be even trying to pull that when the magazine's already been on the shelves for a couple of days.

Perhaps someone saw the copy with the word "Saturdays" on it and assumed that it was an embargo rather than the subject?

So, yes, it's The Saturdays - or the Pussycat Girls Aloud, as it seems likely the working title would have been. Or Thunderbugs 2.0, as would seem appropriate. They're confident, they tell FHM:

Rochelle, a Miss England finalist, said: “I believe we’ll be a household name.”

Yes. There won't be a household in the country that hasn't heard of Saturdays by the end of the month, that's for sure.

Actually, there's something almost sweet about aiming to be a "household name", which a phrase that predates the concept of always-on celebrity.

Meanwhile, Gordon has been going through Robbie Williams' accounts, which makes a change from sending people to go through his bins.

Actually, I say Gordon has. He's got in an expert:
A bean-counting source revealed:

Yes. Gordon fears his audience might struggle with a concept like "accountant" or even "a money expert". It's a bean-counting source. Or perhaps he really did ask someone whose job was counting beans for a living.

Smart seems incensed that Williams took five million quid in salary last year:
Rob has given himself the incredible salary from his own business, The In Good Company, despite a pretty dire year for his books.

He paid himself out of his own money. Doesn't he realise that's not the way we do things anymore? You're meant to lose everyone else's money, and then pay yourself from emergency funds drawn from central taxation.

To be fair, five million quid for a year when he's done nothing much might seem outrageous, but it's not like he doesn't have income streams from back catalogue and so on which is going to bring in money for him. And surely he's better he lives off his past rather than churning out more of his stuff?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Diddy wanted Danity to push on, grimly

Puff Daddy's attempts to create an urban Spice Girls, Danity Kane, have let him down badly by developing such bitter internal animosities the group shattered. (Which, let's face it, at least shows how successfully he transplanted the Spice Girls model.)

Daddy isn't pleased, explains Dawn Danity:

"Puff's a businessman," she said. "Puff knows what's smart. No matter how much beef you have, [you put it aside] for your business. He knew we have a big fanbase. We got to get this stuff fixed. That's why he kept trying to fix it. We thought everyone was coming back, or at least trying."

Putting aside the beef to keep your business going - advice which is as good for anyone running a saltbeef stand as it is for a pop group. Apart from it being rubbish advice for a pop group, because is there any sight less edifying than people who hate each other trying to dance together?

You've also got to love the idea of P Diddy telling Danity Kane to be professional and not let your music get overshadowed by pointless feuds. It's like getting a lecture on financial probity from the Royal Bank Of Scotland.

Free music can make money

There's a great Hypebot post on Corey Smith, a musician who has apparently made millions because - not despite - giving stuff away and charging low prices for gigs:

First, even though the music is available for free, plenty of people still buy his music on iTunes. However, as an experiment, they took down the free tracks from Corey's website for a period of time last summer... and sales on iTunes went down. Once again, this proves how ridiculous the claim is that free songs somehow cannibalize sales.

But, still, the real money maker for Corey is concerts, and even here he's doing something innovative: making concert tickets cheap: $5. The thinking here appears to be that once you see him in concert, you become a true fan who will keep going back (and paying) for more. And, in fact, at $5/ticket, you can afford to drag along your friends as well, and turn them into fans as well.

But, you might object, not every act could do well out of that - and, indeed, that's true:
Corey's manager, Marty Winsch, has tried this with other artists, where it hasn't always worked as well. So, some may claim that the model (again) is very limited. Of course, the reason is that those other acts just weren't that good.

A system which actually rewards you for being any good? (Or at least for making a connection with fans)? The record industry won't like that one...

Spotify gets cleaned up

Yesterday, The Guardian ran a piece praising Spotify:

Now Spotify is here, a completely legal service which tries to get close to that universal jukebox idea, where all you have to do is either pay a monthly fee (£10 in the UK) or listen to some ads at the start of a track (and see them on the application's interface) and you can get at a huge range of music. It's not quite every song ever made - give the folks a chance - but it's a big start.

It's been well-received, and was starting to gain impressive traction. The music industry must be pleased, right? A new way of delivering music that people loved, would pay for (or at least generate advertising revenue) without the need for them to download anything they shouldn't. They've wanted iTunes dominance to be shifted - Spotify looked like it might at least be in with chance to taking market share. The answer, right, to music company's prayers?

Of course not. The RIAA doesn't just look into the mouth of a gift horse, it'll ram a tube down the poor thing's throat in order to inspect the stomach lining before insisting on a full fMRI scan. And so it is that today Spotify are contacting their users under music industry duress:
Some important changes to the Spotify music catalogue

January 28, 2009

Next week we are going to be making some changes to our music catalogue that we feel are important to communicate clearly. Unfortunately we are going to be removing a number of songs from our catalogue and adding country restrictions to some tracks, which may make them unplayable for you.

Why are we doing this?

The changes are being made so that we implement all the proper restrictions that are required by our label deals. Some tracks will be restricted from play in certain countries, this means that if you share tracks with friends who are in other countries it’s possible that they won’t be able to listen to them. The reason for this is that our agreements contain strict rules as to what tracks can and can’t be played in various countries that we are now capable of implementing. These restrictions are a legacy from when most music was sold on tapes and CDs and they have continued over into streaming music, our hope is that one day restrictions like this will disappear for good.

Additionally, some of the music that has been delivered to us had been delivered by mistake even though the artist did not want their music to be included in a streaming service. In order to respect the decisions of the artist we now have to remove those tracks. We have not lost any licenses and no labels have stopped working with us, this is just a matter of updating our catalogue to be in line with the agreements we actually have. In hindsight it would have been better to remove this in October when we launched publicly, we realize this now and apologize to you for not doing it sooner.

How will this affect you?

A number of the tracks that you’ve listened to previously will no longer be available for streaming, these tracks have already been removed from the search function. If you have some of these songs in playlists we will try to automatically replace those songs with versions from albums that we are not removing so you don’t lose the song. If there is no replacement available then the song will appear in red on your playlists.

What’s next?

From this point on there are no plans to remove any more music and our catalogue will only grow from here. We already have music from all the major labels and a vast majority of the independent labels licensed, between them we have millions of tracks that we still can add into Spotify. Now it’s a matter of importing that music into our system, which we are doing on an ongoing basis in an effort to add thousands of albums a week. We continue to work hard to sign deals with more labels and will work with the labels we have signed to fill the holes in our catalogue.

Our dream is to create a music experience where users can play whatever music they want, whenever they want, it may take awhile but we will keep working at it. Please feel free to leave any questions you may have on the blog or join the conversation on our forum if you require more information.

It's down to publishing restrictions caused by some tracks being available on compilations and the... sorry; I was getting confused there: it's down to the majors thinking its better to frustrate users today rather than accept there's some work and horse-trading that needs to be done behind the scenes. Seriously: they couldn't sort this out while leaving the tracks up?

Still, perhaps people will wait for the RIAA companies to be satisfied, rather than flocking off to some other service that hasn't been bending over backwards to remain properly licensed. Perhaps.

Smoothing down your sleeve

It was a spot of band-wagon advertising when Smooth took the idea of sleeve-facing and wound a commercial around it, but it was done well. The careful placing of a record cover to make it look like its part of the background is a cunning and entertaining idea.

The effect is somewhat spoiled, though, if you slap a massive advertising message over the bit which shows you that you're looking at someone posing behind the sleeve, and instead just gives the impression that Smooth radio runs through the countryside waving records about.

Heather Mills: More sinned-against than... well, sinned-against, anyway

Heather Mills has been enjoying an unprecedented run of good press - admittedly, all of it buried as deep inside the papers as the editors can get away with, and all enforced by the PCC. But, still, suddenly the papers have started to say sorry. She didn't buy an expensive swimming pool, she's not dating a friend; her breasts are her own, and her daughter isn't going to sing on the Shrek soundtrack.

I'm still trying to work out why anyone would bother to make up a story that Beatrice was going to sing on Shrek; and why anyone would be so enraged at the idea they'd require a formal apology. But they did, and she was, so sorries were issued forth.

Also surprising is the new person in charge of shaping Mills' public image:

None of the papers has paid compensation, but last night Mills's US-based publicist, Joe Dolce, said he was pleased with the action taken. "I'm happy to open a dialogue with the papers. I'm also happy the drubbing has diminished and so is Heather. No one deserves that kind of vilification in the media."

Joe Dolce then addressed the editors of the papers directly, demanding to know "what's the matter, you, gotta no respect."

Ireland embraces "three strikes"

During my coffee-making haze earlier this morning, Peter Bazalgette was on Today [Scroll down to 7.32 to listen] pointing out politely that you'll never stop people pirating stuff.

Presumably Irish ISP Eircom hadn't had a chance to hear this before signing up for a Three Strikes policy.

During the Bazalgette piece, Ed Stourton summarised the position of the Digital Britain report as seeing access to broadband as being on a par with access to power and water: an essential service for the way we live now. It's impossible to see how you could square a belief that broadband is an essential service with arbitrary removal of that service on the whim of a record company. Is any company - in Britain, or Ireland, or elsewhere - really going to deny entire households access to the network simply to please Sony or Warners? The suspicion has to be that adopting the policy is designed to shut the record industry up, rather than shut file sharers out.

Robbie Williams is not wanted for crimes

The Telegraph is all a-twitter - in the old sense of the word - having secured the first photo of Robbie Williams back on British soil.

Oh. Um, yeah. That's almost certainly Williams, and not just some bloke trying to distract photographers.

Hang about, though... there's something familiar about this guy...

I think the US Postal Service might have found their man. Do we get our reward?

[Wanted sketch from Criggo, which is very good indeed, by the way]

Gordon in the morning: What boys like

Pussycat Dolls are playing tonight, which has sent Gordon off dreaming off the possibility of another twelve months' worth of stories about overpaid footballers dating underdressed singers:

An army of Premiership footballers are descending on the Pussycat Dolls gig in Cardiff tonight in the hope of pulling a Pussycat and becoming half of the next Posh and Becks.

Manchester United and Man City players have been block-booking PCD dates at the MEN arena.

Any football fan on the girls’ touring staff will have a tidy bargaining chip for free match tickets: A meet-and-greet with the eligible bachelorettes.

LADY GAGA is supporting, making it doubly certain any single footballers worth their salt (and probably a few married ones) will be getting down to the gig.

There's something almost - almost - sweet about Gordon imagining someone backstage as the Pussycat Dolls and Lady GaGa run about getting ready would view their position as nothing more than an excellent way to engineer a free pass to Bolton v West Ham.

I'm not sure why Gordon believes that Manchester Evening News Arena is in Cardiff.

Hey, Gordon, talking of Lady GaGa, she went out wearing not many clothes yesterday. Did you see?
It's Lady bra bra

Yes. He saw.

Gordon's team covers the raid at Amy Winehouse's flat, where fifteen grand of stuff was pinched - some of it irreplaceable.

Terrible luck for Amy, of course. It's almost as if the thieves knew where the flat was, like it had appeared in national newspapers regularly in the past, and that they knew the place was empty. But how could they have known Winehouse was in St Lucia? Any ideas, Gordon?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Busta Rhymes attempts to explain why Arab Money isn't bad

You see, Arab Money wasn't intended as a slur on anyone. Oh, no. Why, when he first heard the song, Rhymes didn't even know it said 'Arab':

"I called [producer Ron Browz] on the phone. We were going shopping for the awards. I was riding around, and we were playing the beat over. I wanted to know what he was saying. [Ron] picked up the phone, and I was like, 'What are you saying on this joint?' I thought it was saying 'Maybach Money.' 'Maybach' or 'Arab' — it kinda rhymed. I needed confirmation."

Maybach sort of rhymes with Arab? Or Arab sort of rhymes with Money? Eh?

Browz, though, confirmed the chorus was Arab money. Rather than going "perhaps we should go with Maybach", Rhymes was thrilled:
"I was like, 'This is genius,' " he said. "Just the timing of this. The fact that the recession was crazy. Fortune 500 companies left and right are needing bailouts. I was like, 'You ain't hearing none of that going on with none of the people in the Arab community or Arab culture. None of that.' I was like, 'You know something? This is a great record to inspire people to incorporate wealth in their vocabulary, because rich has become the new broke.' 'Arab Money' — it felt right. Let's take something from a culture that has exemplified the rich qualities of spirituality and economic and financial stability for thousands of years. They've instilled that in their kids for thousands of years."

Aha. So it was a celebration of Arab money and their not needing bailouts because of their culture (it's not racist if its lazy stereotyping positively, right?). It doesn't seem to have occurred to Busta that the lack of collapse in the Arab economies might be something more to do with buoyant price of oil than rich qualities of spirituality.

Mind you, Rhymes' suggestion that what the west needs is to "incorporate wealth in its vocabulary" is such a blindingly obvious answer to the recession it's surprising that it hasn't been adopted as official Labour Party policy.

Still, Rhymes isn't bothered by the sneers at his song. Oh, no:
"It didn't hurt me, because I leave room for error, and I understand what happens in misunderstanding. It would have hurt me if people would have understood clearly the agenda of the record and still hated on it. That would have been a little different. But I feel a lot of people who had issues with it, they just misunderstood. Even those people, I hope they got a chance to see or get a chance to see what my real intent was and still is — that they got a different level of appreciation."

Well, yes. The idea might sound horribly ill-conceived, but when you read the lyrics - then you'll understand it:
Seven star hotels, Maybach, movie sick
Big bitches, knock-kneed camel-toed groupie shit
Women walk around while security on camelback
Club on fire now, niggas don't know how to act
Sittin' in casinos while I'm gamblin' with Arafat
Money long, watch me purchase pieces of the Almanac
Y'all already know, I got the streets buzzin'
While I make you bow down and make Salaat like a Muslim

See, now I take trips to Baghdad dummy
While I use stacked chips and count Arab money now
I don't need to get fresh, about to grow a beard duke
So much cake even the money look weird too
Domestic bread, and I'm broad, I'm tryna eat right
Prince Alwali, Bin Talal, Al Saul
They respect the value of my worth in Maui, Malaysia
Iran and Iraq, Saudi Arabia!

As a sensitive tribute to other nationalities, it makes Turning Japanese sound like the theme song of the model United Nations.

The thing is, Rhymes clearly does intend his song to be one of praise. He's not racist. He's just embarrassing.

Continuing Loop

The Loop remastered reissues series is going to continue, announces a passing press officer:

Remastered from the original analogue sources, following on from the critically acclaimed “Heavens End” and “Fade Out” in November 2008, the final 2 releases, ‘A Gilded Eternity’ and ‘The World In Your Eyes’ will be released as double / triple disc sets on 27th April 2009 (via Forte) and housed in a mini vinyl style card sleeve, reproducing the original artwork. Both albums will be also be made available digitally for the first time.

"A mini vinyl style card sleeve" means, of course, like what the record came in only smaller, rather than a card somehow made out of a vinyl-style substance.

Still, however it's packaged, it's good news.

Someday, Richard Attenborough will make a movie about Jay-Z

The value of history. How else could we live in a world where Fifty Cent compares Jay-Z to Gandhi:

"Jay-Z is Gandhi... He'll bear the disrespect for what? For working to be in a great position. So for creating the comfort that he desires for his life, he has to bear the disrespect. Because they'd like to be where he is. That's an interesting concept because Jay (would) rather just let 'em go.

"My take on it is, yeah, I'm gonna say something back, and he gonna wish he never said what he said. He gonna wish he never came around here sniffing around me."

Yes, of course. The disrespecting the British Raj used to give Gandhi for creating the comfort he wanted for his life - they would just mock, mock, mock whenever he went out with some new bling or started dating someone fabulous.

So, Jay-Z is Gandhi. What does that, though, make Fiddy's self-confessed uncontrolled, hot back self? I'm somehow picturing him as a kind of Hulk figure. Only with much better jewelery.

The long Streets

Mike Skinner - like everyone - is now Twittering. Given that my Grandma has signed up for a Twitter account despite being dead for decades, you'd think this clumsy bout of catch-up would be something you'd keep quiet about. Oh no. There's been a press release:

It's fair to say that in the last week or so, Mike has taken quite a shine to Twitter. That, if you don't know already, is the hot new social website where you can tell people what you're up to in 140 characters or less. So far, Mike has posted 94 updates, telling us such things as how best to make tea, what he's having for dinner, which microphone Dr Dre recommends and whether or not his arms are in Moses-based agony.

The idea of such a long message promoting an idea which values brevity might be an in-joke. But, boy, wait until Mike discovers Facebook. A regular press release telling us how often he's tickled his Slide Pet pig and the changing status of his friends would come most in welcome.

The Telegraph and the Take Loads Of Drugs festival

The Telegraph reports the inquest into the death of Katie Jones:

Girl died after taking ecstasy at 'take a load of drugs' festival

The Take A Load Of Drugs Festival? I think I might have missed that one. But standfirst clarifies matters:
A family orientated girl died from an overdose of ecstasy at a music festival at which was billed in a promotional booklet as a place where people should "take a load of drugs".

Ah, so it wasn't a 'take load of drugs' festival, it was just a festival which was billed as for taking a load of drugs, was it?

You have to get quite a way through the story for the source of the eye-catching headline claim:
One of the bands performing at the festival appeared to encourage the use of drugs in a free festival booklet.

The band, Deathretri, wrote: "Don't just get pissed, take a load of drugs and miss the bands. Do all three."

So, yes, a silly thing for a band to say - but to imply, as the Telegraph appears to, that Kendal Calling, the festival in question, was some sort of substance-washed bacchanalia is equally silly. In fact, more silly, because the Telegraph are turning a court report into a tragic death into a sensationalised sideshow. The paper's report makes no attempt to connect a throwaway line in a corner of a promotional booklet and the very real death of a person; they might want to think about changing the headline.

Absolute accuracy

If yesterday's pre-Rajar announcement that Absolute was expecting a ten-to-fifteen per cent drop in audience was supposed to manage expectations down, they perhaps didn't go far enough. Audiences are twenty per cent down on what they were before.

Brave faces all round, people:

The Absolute chief operating officer Clive Dickens, who blamed the drop on listener confusion over the station's new name, said: "Absolute Radio has had just 15 weeks to sink into the nation's ears.

"When Oasis were 15 weeks old they told everyone they were going to be one of the biggest bands in the world. Fifteen years on, now look at them. We have the same aspirations."

Hmm. When Bagsy The Magic Spanner were 15 weeks old, they told everyone they were going to be one of the biggest bands in the world. So did Combine Thresher. And Explore The Big Teapot. And the thing is, Absolute isn't fifteen weeks old. It's an old, old radio station that just happens to have a different name. And if the rebrand has cost you one out of five of your audience, then it's a rebrand you've failed to carry off successfully. Making empty Gallagher-like noises about how you're going to be the Oasis of the Radio Industry can't really disguise the terrible sink the network is in.

Also interesting from the latest batch of audience numbers: Chris Moyles audience is more-or-less the same as it was this time last year, raising the intriguing possibility that he's at the natural limits of his attraction.

Subsidising the war on downloading

Part of the Digital Britain paper that catches our eye is the proposal that there should be a fighting fund to 'stamp out' piracy online.

You have to weep at the idea that anyone could publish a document supposedly shaping the nation's electronic future while believing that online piracy is something that can be stamped out. It's like thinking that taking on a few more police and making Crimewatch UK go weekly will stop all burglaries, forever.

But let's at least look at the idea as if it's designed to reduce piracy, or at least frustrate pirates. Or, more honestly, to spur the creation of ever-more inspired workarounds - because that could be it: by making it harder to get to the unlicensed material, you inspire people to innovative new ways of sucking down the material, or washing off the DRM, or sharing without anyone noticing. Maybe this is the heart of Digital Britain, the secret plan: driving more and more users to become skilled hackers, thereby having a massive army of experts to draw on in the future. It's almost brilliant. If that is the plan.

What is the proposal?

Lord Carter of Barnes, the Communications Minister, will propose the creation of a quango, paid for by a charge that could amount to £20 a year per broadband connection. The idea will be at the heart of the Digital Britain Green Paper to be unveiled by ministers, which includes plans to create jobs by boosting broadband take-up.

Yes, for some reason, everyone in the country with a broadband connection is going to have to fund this government body; a government body whose sole business is protecting the copyrights of private companies, many of which are based outside Europe.

And twenty quid a year? For a few quid more than that annually, the Isle Of Man is proposing that their citizenry get the right to help themselves to whatever music they fancy. If you're in Douglas, you pay a quid a week and get every song Olivia Newton John has ever recorded, The King And I soundtrack and the entire Slayer back catalogue. If you live in Cheltenham, you pay about 45 pence a week and get some unelected officials in a office block operating under the banner of OfLoad or something similar, sending you snippy letters for daring to try and find a copy of a song ripped from an old 78.

I can't help finding one idea slightly more attractive than the other.

Folkobit: John Martyn

John Martyn died earlier today. His official website carries a brief confirmation:

John Martyn 11th September 1948 - 29th January 2009

With heavy heart and an unbearable sense of loss we must announce that John died this morning.

A fuller obituary will follow later today; thanks to Mike E for the news.

Although often thought of as a Scottish artist through-and-through, Martyn was born in Surrey in 1948; his Scottish upbringing was a by-product of his parent's divorce (at a time when divorce was still uncommon in the United Kingdom). Although Glasgow would always feel like home for him, Iain McGeachy as he was then known knew that it was a place where only the tough would survive:
"You went out and kicked a few heads or you where looked on as a pansy."

Both his parents had a musical background - they'd met when they were working as light opera singers - and so it was perhaps unsurprising that Martyn would follow them into music. Learning the guitar in his teens, Martyn soon became a regular on the folk scene.

In 1967, Martyn released his first album. London Conversation was notable not merely for being in mono; it was also the first record by a white artist on Island Records.

John married Beverley Kutner in 1969. The pair had come together when Martyn had been invited to perform backing guitar for Kutner; they formed first a musical partnership, and then a life one. Or, at least, a decade-long partnership - their marital breakdown formed the basis for John's 1980 album Grace And Danger. Chris Blackwell believed the album to be so personal he held it back from release for a year.

Shortly after, Martyn moved from Island to Warners. It was here that he would enjoy some of his most sustained success. The albums Glorious Fool and Well Kept Secret made the top 30, the latter despite Martyn puncturing his lung during the recording process.

In 1983, Martyn married again - Annie Furlong - and returned to Island Records, adding some synths to his sound for Sapphire. Spells followed with Permanent Records and Go! Discs, while Martyn explored unlikely collaborations. He provided music for dance companies, movies and even managed to score an unlikely dance hit with a collaboration with Sister Bliss.

He was awarded an OBE in this year's New Year Honours list but has died before collecting it. John Martyn was 60 years old.

Lady GaGa: Don't tell people what I've stolen

Michael M emails us having read Lady GaGa's piece in Grazia:

She comes out with some priceless stuff about how she makes everyone who works on her outfits sign an NDA so they can't copy her style, then goes on to enumerate all the fashion designers she's copied to create her unique look.

She's a pop star, and I don't expect intellectual rigour from her but a journalist who just copies all that guff down without saying 'hang on a minute - you just said...: isn't a journalist at all. They're just a typist.


And also: a non-disclosure agreement to cover your skirt? Isn't that taking yourself - and your position as some sort of style leader - just a little too seriously? It's not like you're inventing a cure for something - or even putting together Debenhams's summer collection. It's an outfit for singing pop songs in. And everyone knows it'll be raunchy in a kooky way anyway.

How many years must a mountain exist - and how much are these baked beans?

I suppose, at least, it's an advert for the Co-Op rather than, say, Shell, but even so: Blowin' In The Wind being used in advert? Even for the Co-Op?

A spokesman for Sony, Columbia's parent company, said: "He has a career based on surprising people, on people not being able to second-guess him. He continues to embrace change and embrace change in music."

It's interesting that it's the record label which is trying to spin this as somehow being contrarian and "surprising", rather than someone who cares about music and, you know, standing for something. Since when did 'adopting the attitude that everything is for sale and every man has a price' embracing "change in music"?

We can only hope they bring those animated sheep who confusingly used to advertise the shops a couple of years back to lip-sync the words. If you're going to debase, debase completely.

[Thanks to Emma DB for the story]

Apple allow you to choose what DRM you want to strip

Up until now, if you'd bought a tune on iTunes with DRM wrapped all over it, and wanted to change it to a DRM-free version, you could only do it by making all iTunes-sold tracks on your PC into what's known as iTunes Plus versions.

Now, though, Apple are introducing the ability to pick and choose which tracks you wish to set free. They're still going to charge you thirty cents a pop, mind. You might figure you could get the same effect re-recording the song and saving the thirty cents.

[Thanks to Michael M]

Gordon in the morning: The return of Victoria Newton

Bizarre has a big, exclusive interview this morning - a proper one, not just something that Gordon has found in his subscription to Total Guitar magazine. Lily Allen's come in to have a chat. It must be pretty exciting for Gordon.

Hang on a moment, though: What's this half-forgotten byline from the past?

Guys are really nice when we split up now so they don't end up in a song...


Yes, Victoria's back on the Bizarre beat. It's unclear if this clattering down to the shopfloor was inspired by Rebekah Wade's wistful comments about Tesco executives working the checkouts, or if Lily's team would only speak to the Sun if they got Newton's special treatment. Perhaps Gordon was elsewhere, presenting Kasabian with an award so they can run the pictures next Christmas.

Still, it's been so long since Victoria was doing front-line reporting - would she still have the skill?

Oh, yes. All the Victoria trademarks are there.

Filling up space by quoting massive chunks of supposedly appropriate lyrics?
Her new album features a track called Not Fair, in which she refers to an ex being rubbish between the sheets.

She sings: “There’s just one thing that’s getting in the way/When we go up to bed you’re just no good/It’s such a shame/I look into your eyes, I want to get to know you/And then you make this noise and it’s apparent it’s all over.”

So it comes as no surprise that these days Lily’s boyfriends are careful how they treat her.


Filling more space by having the "boffins" rustle up a meaningless chart or graphic?
LILI ... the Lily In Love Index


Some searing political debate?
And she admits that if she were stuck on a desert island and had to choose between the only two men on there — PM GORDON BROWN or Tory leader DAVID CAMERON — it would have to be the Prime Minister.

She says: “I like Gordon Brown actually. Gordon or Cameron? I’d say Gordon.”


A confusion of being stick-thin with being healthy?
I caught up with Lily backstage at a warm-up gig to promote it and she was chirpier, brighter and certainly much thinner than I’ve seen her for a while.

Ah, Victoria, how we've missed you.

But, hey, don't think that Gordon was sat in the office while Newton swans in and takes the big interview for herself. Oh, no. Gordon was rubbing shoulders with the stars, too:
GEORGE SAMPSON has had the kind of night I expect of a Britain’s Got Talent Winner.

My pal spent Tuesday charming lovely LADY GAGA and PARIS HILTON.

Wouldn't you really expect the winner of New New Faces to be spending the evening waiting for the Red Coat to introduce him in the Miami Lounge while wondering if he'd not have been better off keeping the paper round?

Gordon writes a "hilarious" open letter for Sampson's teachers "explaining" what George's behaviour during the evening at some sort of mobile phone launch:
I’ve slapped his wrists and warned him that if it happens again I will confiscate his favourite cap.

It's probably best if you don't think about this too much.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Absolute decline: Former Virgin nervously awaits results

Tomorrow, the audience figures for UK radio are released, and amongst those expecting an awkward time of it are the team at Absolute Radio, or Virgin as what it was called. They're expecting a large drop in audience:

Tomorrow's figures are expected to show a drop of about 10% to 15%. Absolute Radio would not comment on the size of the drop until the Rajar figures are officially published tomorrow at 7am.

However, management at Absolute Radio, who met advertising agencies today, said the station remained on course to hit its two-year audience target of 3.5 million listeners.

It's not entirely clear how the collapse of an already-declining audience is "on course" for a massive increase, unless the idea is to cull most of the old audience to make room for new ones. Like when you knock down twenty Victorian terrace houses and cram in thirty modern semis in place.

Apparently, the drop is because of the rebrand:
"We know from our internal research that a significant proportion of our audience still believe they are listening to a radio station branded Virgin," said the Absolute Radio programme and operations director, Clive Dickens.

"We are 15 weeks into our new brand as opposed to 15 years of Virgin Radio and 40 years of the Virgin brand. There has never been a rebrand of this scale in commercial radio before."

This is a bit confusing, though: if the people who are still listening think they're still listening to Virgin, does that mean the ones who have deserted are the ones who did realise the station was now something else entirely? It doesn't entirely give you confidence for the future if the people listening haven't noticed that it's changed.

It's also going to be a bit of an uphill sell to advertisers, isn't it? "Our audience apparently haven't noticed that for the last fifteen weeks we've been using a different name every ten minutes. Would you like to give us some money so that we can tell them about your product?"

It's all down to the RAJAR diary system:
Dickens said: "We strongly support the Rajar diary system, but knowing the name of the station you are listening to instinctively off the top of your head is one of the most important barometers for completing that diary.

"We feel there is a really strong set of explanations as to why we expect to receive a number that has gone backwards rather than forwards in the first 15 weeks. We know it is underreporting. The important thing for a media company like us is to stay focused on the end goal."

Perhaps. But if a listener goes to tick 'Virgin' in his diary, and it isn't there, shouldn't they then go "that's odd... oh, they're called Absolute now, aren't they?" After fifteen weeks, surely they should?

Winehouse story referred to the Press Complaints Commission

The Sun's story claiming that Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse were on some sort of extremist hit-list is being investigated by the Press Complaints Commission.

DIY: The Metric system

Metric are just about ready to release their new album, Fantasies. And it's more-or-less self-managed, says the press release:

Always up for a worthwhile challenge, METRIC self-financed the recordings, set up their own global label operation and assembled a team to release the new album in major territories around the world. "But we're not doing it totally on our own" comments guitarist Jimmy Shaw. "In Canada it's coming out with Last Gang who released Live it Out and Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? and our friends at Arts & Crafts will be releasing the album in Mexico. We've set up distribution and hired our own staff to handle releasing the record in the USA, the UK, all throughout continental Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. It's pretty insane, but it's really exciting. We might go down in flames, or it might be the best move ever. Either way it will have been on our terms, and that for us is success."

Yet another model which doesn't rely on the majors - and for a band who you wouldn't peg as having the self-financing clout of, say, a Radiohead, but whose needs are greater than a small band who can produce a local release off the support of a dozen or so ardent fans. It's surprising what you can afford if you skip the cost of helping your label purse expensive legal actions against fans.

Keyboardobit: Billy Powell

Billy Powell, the keyboardist who survived the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash, has died at the age of 56.

The son of a US navy man, Powell spent much of his childhood in Italy. The early death of his father saw the family move back to the US, where Powell took up the piano, an instrument for which he had a natural talent.

His lucky break came while working as part of the Skynyrd road crew; during time off he was mucking about playing the Freebird piano parts, when the Hollywoodesque "hey, we need a keyboard player" moment happened.

He spent five years with the band, until the 1977 plane crash which killed Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, along with the band's assistant road manager and both the pilot and co-pilot. Powell's nose was nearly pulled from his face, but he was the first survivor to be released from hospital. In later years he gave a lurid account of the deaths of his band mates to VH1, accounts which were contradicted when the autopsy reports were eventually published.

After the accident, Powell spent some time moving through a number of guest roles and short-lived bands - including his own, Alias - before falling on the stumbling blocks of many musicians: alcohol and unpaid taxes.

As the tenth anniversary of the Skynyrd aircrash loomed, and aware that there would be a slew of 'tribute' bands cashing-in, Powell organised a reunion of the band's surviving members. Although some were reluctant, a mixture of sensitively chosen replacements for their fallen colleagues and the pressing demands of the pocket book secured a reactivation of the group. The band returned to the studio in 1991, and were still touring; they completed a tour last summer.

The cause of Powell's death wasn't revealed in initial reports; he apparently called emergency services to his home and was pronounced dead after CPR failed.

Meteor awards: Apparently the internet is a public place

The Meteor Awards somehow managed to publish their list of 2009 nominees online a day early. They noticed, and took them down, but not before the Irish Times had copied down the shortlist:

Best National DJ

Tony Fenton – TodayFM
Dan Hegarty – 2fm
Alison Curtis – Today Fm
Dave Fanning – RTE Radio 1
Ray Foley - Todayfm
Rick O’Shea – 2fm

Best Regional DJ

Dermot, Dave & Siobhan – Dublin’s98
Keith Cunningham - Red FM
Leigh Doyle – Beat 102.103
The Zoo Crew – Spin South West
Mark Noble - FM104
Jon Richards – Galway Bay FM

Best Irish Band

The Blizzards
Republic of Loose
Fight Like Apes
The Script
Snow Patrol

Best Irish Male

Mick Flannery
Damien Dempsey
Duke Special
David Holmes
Jape (Richard Egan)

Best Irish Female

Lisa Hannigan
Gemma Hayes
Imelda May
Tara Blaise
Camille O’Sullivan

Best Irish Pop Act

The Blizzards
The Coronas
The Script

Best Irish Album

Fight Like Apes – Mystery Golden Medallion
Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns
Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
Messiah J & The Expert – From the Word Go
The Script – The Script

Best Irish Live Performance

The Coronas
The Blizzards
The Swell Season
Fight Like Apes
Republic of Loose

Barry S - who tipped us off to the fun - had a simple response:

Enya? Good grief.

Still, at least there's a smattering of mentions for Lisa Hannigan, which is encouraging, and she might just be able to benefit if there's a split 'dull band' vote between The Script and Snow Patrol in the album category.

But Dave Fanning still getting lifted on the shoulders?

Oxegen reveal headliners

Taking on board the criticism of an anonymous poster yesterday that the cynicism on this blog can become wearing, I'm going to approach the announcement of the headliners for the 2009 Oxegen Festival with nothing, nothing, but enthusiasm:

The Kings Of Leon!

The Killers!

Snow Patrol!

You'd certainly have to agree, there isn't another festival taking place at exactly the same time that could pull together that exact same line-up. And so many guitars, so many, many men with guitars.

Muxtape 2.0

After it was shut down by the major labels for the crime of letting people have fun with music, Muxtape did say it'd be back in a new form.

And now it is. If you can call it back:

Welcome to a preview of the new Muxtape, a minimalist platform for bands to promote their music and listeners to create mixes. We’ve invited 12 of our favorite artists to help test, and in the coming weeks we'll begin allowing bands to sign up themselves for free. Learn more.

So what was a fabulous resource becomes another unsigned band platform.

Gordon in the morning: Living the values

Come, let us measure today's work by Gordon Smart against the inspiring calls from his editor Rebekah Wade in her Hugh Cudlipp lecture.


With these market forces, it's even more important to remember why we exist: Journalism.

KYLIE MINOGUE has recorded a song with Aussie kids’ music group THE WIGGLES — after I revealed last year she was desperate to team up with the four cheesy lads in coloured tops.

Great press campaigns can change history and shape new laws. They can build a bridge between public opinion and public policy.

Stevie-Louise, wearing blue, said: “Russell [Brand] took his clothes off as soon as we got through his front door. He was definitely wanting a threesome — and he thought he was going to get one.”

Campaigns provide a unique connection to the public especially when the subject matter is of a serious nature.

“I like going to sleep with nice thoughts in my head. I’ll always pick When Harry Met Sally over Saw V.”

James [Corden] reveals the shocking truth in the March issue of movie mag Empire.

The newsroom needs journalists who have great contacts, the reporters who can break the news not just report it, the photographers that can bring in the exclusives.

NOEL GALLAGHER reckons playing guitar steered him away from a life of crime.

The OASIS axeman, who lived in the Manchester suburb of Burnage as a child, tells Total Guitar magazine...

The quality of our journalism will make or break our industry, not the recession.

Failed Yorkshire businessman KEITH LEMON has gone one better by enticing Page 3 beauties BECKY and CHELSEA to dance with him.

Our ancient craft is to tell many people what few people know.

I reckon COLEEN ROONEY must have spent at least a grand on bikinis for her hols.

WAYNE'S curvy missus displayed YET ANOTHER snazzy design as she relaxed on the beach in the Caribbean with her parents COLETTE and TONY, as well as brother JOE.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Free Sigur Ros

The Independent - yes, it's still going - is attempting to boost its circulation with a free Sigur Ros album this Saturday.

Now, I love Sigur Ros, and look forward to Saturday and picking up some free music from them. But... they're not exactly the band I'd be looking to in order to try and turn around the slump in the Indie's fortunes. Couldn't their columnist Alex James whip up something with his newly refound chums?

Jackson now sued by John Landis

Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand; lawyers run in a ghoulish band, with writs for all clutched tight in hand...
As if Michael Jackson hasn't been sued enough, John Landis has now joined the queue: he claims he's not seen a red cent of income for his bit in the Thriller video in four years.

Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress this post in no way endorses a belief in Michael Jackson.

Venuewatch: Charlotte shutters

It's not unexpected, but it's still sad to hear: The Charlotte in Leicester has failed to find a buyer and will close at the end of the month.

There's a glimmer of hope: Punch Taverns have repeated that they'd like to reopen the pub as a music venue, and bands are lining up to play a benefit gig, if anyone wants to organise one.

For now, though:

Speaking to the Leicester Mercury yesterday [Andy] Wright said: "It will definitely be closing at the end of the month.
Click here!

"That's when the company officially ceases to trade.

"Then it's up to Punch Taverns as to what it wants to do with it.

"I will be gone at the end of the month and it will be closed until further notice."

Leicester will feel the loss.

[Thanks to Simon T for the link]

Zune falling behind

The awkward Zune New Year's Eve fail was bad, but as embarrassments go, that was mild compared with the latest set of figures from Microsoft: Coolfer is reporting that Zune revenues fell 54% in the last quarter of 2008 compared with the final quarter of 2007. Admittedly, the economy is looking a little sickly, but it won't be lost on Microsoft that the iPod continued a period of growth. Cue more mutterings about the long-term future for a device which is still lagging behind SanDisk, never mind Apple.

Nothing but show tunes

PJ Harvey's musical version of Hedda Gabler comes to the stage in New York this week.

A musical Hedda Gabler? Probably not going to be too many break out pop hits in that one, I'd guess.

Slipknot fan dies during gig

Upsetting news from Slipknot's US tour, where a fan collapsed and died during an Iowa gig. The man appears to have had a heart attack; his friends told the local paper he had a history of heart problems.

Eamonn Holmes tells Rihanna "she needs a slap"

It's perhaps not reassuring at all that Eamonn Holmes says he'd only slap Rihanna if she was his daughter. Not reassuring at all.

Still, if his reaction is unsettling, his annoyance with large entourages, which led to his diagnosis that what Rihanna needed was a paternal smacking, is understandable:

"I find the entourages that some people come with, especially the Americans, really pathetic.

"Rihanna, for example, is a beautiful girl, but if she was your daughter, you'd give her a slap and tell her to wise up.

"She is surrounded by people who treat her like a little flower."

If Rihanna was your daughter, Holmes, you'd actually have to arrange an appointment with Randy, who is her official slap-taker.

Holmes is sharing his experience with Star magazine:
Holmes added that Beyonce Knowles' sister Solange had the right attitude, but said he found her "stand off-ish" when he asked her about the former Destiny's Child singer.

Fancy that, eh? Someone who lives their entire life in the shadow of a more famous sibling getting the hump when an interview turns out to be about their sister. Whoever would have thought?

Gordon in the morning: Geri shows off her ring

What a wonderful time for the tabloids: Geri Halliwell is pregnantengaged. Ah, the joys to come: an OK! Wedding, rumours and speculation, estrangement, divorce. This one could keep Gordon in lead columns for years - why, like the Winehouse-Fielder Civil union, which today offers up a sixteenth rapprochement tale.

But Gordon's not entirely happy. What's wrong, Gordon?

the Italian stallion has wasted no time in making an honest woman of Geri.

Just as well on the honesty front, as Geri wasn’t very truthful when Bizarre asked about the good news after Christmas.

She denied it then, and has been wearing gloves a lot recently — something to hide perhaps? — but in a statement yesterday Geri’s management firm 19, said: “We are delighted to announce the engagement of Geri Halliwell and Fabrizio Politi.

“As a token of their commitment to each other Fabrizio presented Geri with an engagement ring over the festive season."

Aw, did Halliwell decide to announce her own engagement in her own time rather than through your column? What a beastly thing to do. How shockingly dishonest.

If not bending to Smart's whims and desires was a fault, then Halliwell's paying for it now, as Gordon unleashes his hurt at not having been told the truth, like an annoyed fairy in Grimm Tale:
GERI HALLIWELL’s Italian fella must have overcooked it on the grappa.

Oh, that's right - he must have been drunk off his tits to have even considered asking her to marry him. But Gordon's only just warming up with his sub-Perez Hilton snark-gobbets:
“There are no immediate plans for marriage as the couple are enjoying their engagement.”

No immediate plans?

That sounds like a get-out-clause to me — which is probably a wise move for the shipping tycoon, given Geri’s pretty dire history with blokes.

Yes, it can't be that the couple are just enjoying being engaged and haven't started to plan anything yet. It must be that - having got engaged when Fabrizio Politi was drunk - they've decided to have an engagement they don't believe in. And you can prove it because Geri has had boyfriends in the past, can't you, Gordon?

The surprising thing is that Rebekah Wade, who has let this appear in the newspaper, was delivering last night's Hugh Cudlipp lecture (you can pretty much get the flavour of it here, in Wordle form). Cudlipp, I'm sure, would have run pretty much this sort of thing himself.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Government buries three strikes

The music industry's dream of people being banished from the internet if they're caught downloading music without the correct licences is fading fast. David Lammy, Intellectual Property Minister, has told The Times it ain't gonna happen:

Mr Lammy, who has begun a big consultation entitled Developing a Copyright Agenda for the 21st Century, said that there was a big difference between organised counterfeiting gangs and “younger people not quite buying into the system”. He said: “We can't have a system where we're talking about arresting teenagers in their bedrooms. People can rent a room in an hotel and leave with a bar of soap - there's a big difference between leaving with a bar of soap and leaving with the television.”

He said he hoped the memorandum of understanding would mean that the Government did not have to apply “the heavy hand of legislation”.

Music industry figures said they were disappointed by Mr Lammy's comments. One senior figure said: “The relative cost of stealing a bar of soap from an hotel might be small, but if it came to seven million people nicking the soap each year, which is what we have in the music industry, I'm sure that hotel chain would do something about it.”

Actually, the soap metaphor doesn't work - the cost of that small basket of toiletries is factored in to the cost of the room. And once you've opened the bar of soap, it's not like you can leave it to be used by the next person along. I think Lammy and the unnamed senior figure are thinking of towels, aren't they?

Interesting that the "senior figure" isn't confident enough to put his name to his thoughts.

Kanye West must have been hacked again

After he was made to look foolish by someone pretending to be him and suggesting he was up for some man-and-two-woman porn shoots, it looks like Kanye West has been made to look even more stupid online. Hark at this:

"I have so much to stunt about that it baffles me. So I asked myself this question, and you can ask yourself the same: Who do you know with two thumbs and his own Louis shoe? This guy!
"Who wouldn't want to work with Louis Vuitton? They're the number-one luxury brand. It lets people know you like nice things."

"As soon as they put that red [a red training shoe], it was killer! It's like an accessory that can express your personality. Like an instant tattoo!"

Trouble is, this really does appear to be the actual Kanye West talking about a pair of overpriced pumps like he's cracked the human genome.

NME Awards: 2010 Brit Awards shortlists announced

The Shockwaves-sponsored NME Awards shortlist sponsored by Shockwaves (you know the one: 'st-st-st-studioline by laurie-elle...') has been released, and the very headline just screams how different and alternative from mainstream prize givings these are:

Oasis, Alex Turner, Killers: Shockwaves NME Awards 2009 nominations

Here's the shortlistings in full, complete with the sponsors names:

The 2009 nominations are:

Best British Band supported by Shockwaves
Bloc Party
The Last Shadow Puppets

Best International Band supported by 4music
Crystal Castles
The Killers
Kings Of Leon
Vampire Weekend

Best Solo Artist
Laura Marling
Lightspeed Champion
Pete Doherty

Best New Band supported by Bench
Late Of The Pier
Vampire Weekend
White Lies

Best Live Band supported by Red Stripe
The Killers
Kings Of Leon

Best Album supported by HMV
Bloc Party – 'Intimacy'
Glasvegas – 'Glasvegas'
The Killers – 'Day & Age'
Kings Of Leon – 'Only By The Night'
Oasis – 'Dig Out Your Soul'

Best Track supported by NME Radio
Kings Of Leon – 'Sex On Fire'
The Last Shadow Puppets – 'The Age Of The Understatement'
MGMT – 'Time To Pretend'
The Ting Tings – 'That's Not My Name'
Vampire Weekend – 'A-Punk'

Best Video supported by NME TV
The Last Shadow Puppets – 'My Mistakes Were Made For You'
Late Of The Pier – 'Heartbreak'
Oasis – 'The Shock Of The Lightning'
Radiohead – 'House Of Cards'
Vampire Weekend – 'A-Punk'

Best Live Event
Isle Of Wight
Reading and Leeds
T In The Park
V Festival

Best TV Show
Gavin & Stacey
The IT Crowd
The Mighty Boosh
Never Mind The Buzzcocks

Best Film
The Dark Knight
Quantum Of Solace

Best Dancefloor Filler
Bloc Party – 'Mercury'
Crystal Castles – 'Courtship Dating'
Dizzee Rascal & Calvin Harris – 'Dance Wiv Me'
Friendly Fires – 'Paris'
Late Of The Pier – 'Bathroom Gurgle'

Best DVD
Arctic Monkeys – 'At The Apollo'
Foo Fighters – 'Live At Wembley Stadium'
Kaiser Chiefs – 'Live At Elland Road'
Muse – 'HAARP'
The Rolling Stones – 'Shine A Light'

Hero Of The Year
Alex Turner
Barack Obama
Brandon Flowers
Noel Fielding
Noel Gallagher

Villain Of The Year
Amy Winehouse
George Bush
Gordon Brown
John McCain
Pete Doherty

Best Dressed
Alex Turner
Alexa Chung
Brandon Flowers
Noel Fielding
Noel Gallagher

Worst Dressed
Amy Winehouse
Brandon Flowers
Johnny Borrell
Katy Perry
Pete Doherty

Worst Album
Britney Spears – 'Circus'
Coldplay – 'Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends'
Jonas Brothers – 'A Little Bit Longer'
Razorlight – 'Slipway Fires'
Scouting For Girls – 'Scouting For Girls'

Worst Band
Fall Out Boy
Jonas Brothers
Scouting for Girls
Tokio Hotel

Sexiest Male
Carl Barat
Keith Murray
Matt Bellamy
Miles Kane
Pete Doherty

Sexiest Female
Alison Mosshart
Hayley Williams
Kate Jackson
Lykke Li
Stephanie Dosen

Best Website
Last FM

Best Venue
Brixton Academy
Manchester Apollo
London Astoria
Glasgow Barrowlands
London O2 Arena

Best Album Artwork
The Cure – '4:13 Dream'
Guillemots – 'Red'
The Killers – 'Day & Age'
Muse – 'HAARP'
We Are Scientists – 'Brain Thrust Mastery'

Best Band Blog
Lightspeed Champion
Little Boots
Noel Gallagher/Oasis

I suppose, to be fair, the inclusion of Coldplay only on a 'worst' list might at least allow some orientation as to which shortlist is the alternative one. But Noel Gallagher "best dressed"? How would that even get past the judges?

And while it's nice to see a 'best website' award, isn't the shortlist an indication of the weakness of the category? Bebo versus Facebook? If you're going to throw it open to such wide consideration, shouldn't Google at least be in the line-up?

The lack of a best DJ (as in radio) award seems to be a bit of an oversight, as well: who cares if NME readers like the Mighty Boosh; isn't the person who slips them fresh music into their ears more, you know, significant? It's like Gardeners World trying to find out their readers' favourite pasty and forgetting to ask about favourite pansy.

Black Lips "flee India"

They don't, it turns out, like it in India if you remove your clothes and dive into the crowd. Or certainly not when Cole Alexander did it. As a result, The Black Lips nearly had their passports confiscated and have fled the country, leaving a canceled tour in their wake. Someone, though, should turn their MySpace explanation into a movie:

When we got to the next hotel a mysterious man and someone who worked for our Indian booking agency tried to run off with our passports they got to the car when we caught them. That's when our documentarian Rob went postal on them. We surrounded them until they gave back our passports. After that we booked the first flight to Berlin to instead work with another Indian, King Khan, on an upcoming EP. We are flying out as soon as sunrise hits this far away land and we have to have the US embassy's phone number on hand in case any more troubleshit starts popping at the airport or something.

If you're making the movie, you might want to change 'the phone number of the American embassy' for something a little more exciting, like 'a gun disguised as a guitar'. Even so: alarming stuff.

Jesus Lizard not merely skimming the surface

Good news: The "fleeting reunion" of The Jesus Lizard is to be slightly less fleeting than we might have thought. The Culture Of Me reckons there's thirty dates around the world being lined up.

Youth in the mud: SY for Glastonbury

Thurston Moore has dropped a fairly massive hint that Sonic Youth would be available for Glastonbury, should they be asked.

Not entirely sure Michael Eavis will be pleased by his reasons, though:

"I wanna play Glastonbury because it's such a disaster camp and I really enjoy that. The general consensus amongst musicians I know is that it's like walking into the pit of hell, and in some way it really feels like that."

"The only times I've ever been there it's been so incredibly messed up."

"You're lucky to get through any perceptible, decent set at all and then there are these huge roving cameras on stage that are spinning around documenting the disaster. There's something about that I find really charming."

Yes, yes, man, but what about the sponsored phone-charging points and the carefully documented entry scheme?

A bad investment coming from Iceland

Kerry Katona has been rehired by Iceland after "turning her life around". (In other words, after a couple of weeks in which she's not been photographed upside-down in a doorway and a handful of pictures in Reveal of her out jogging.)

I suppose - having stuck with her through the last few years - it would be odd to let her go during a relatively rare period when she's not on the front pages snuffling out an apology for something or other. And it's not like there's any commercial logic to having her and a pretend family pushing frozen gizzards in gravy-style sauce coating in the first place.

Still, Iceland must be delighted to have Kerry fit and healthy to act as a spokesperson for their wonderful range of frozen foods, right? After all, she went to Iceland and got herself in shape, right?

While Kerry admits she allows herself her favourite fatty treats at the weekend, she lives on a diet of Bran Flakes, salad and protein shakes during the week.

She also drinks a pint of water with every meal as well as green tea to speed up her metabolism.

Oh. But perhaps she freezes the Bran Flakes.

Bowie: I really really wanna Ziggy-Zig, ah

There is some hope in the original story is sourced to the Daily Star, and thus probably not entirely true, but even so: worrying that David Bowie is apparently thinking of bringing back Ziggy Stardust for Coachella.

Actually, how would he do that anyway? Would he try and squeeze back into his 1970s jumpsuit, or would he do an aged-in-real-time Ziggy? The first would be embarrassing; the second, if done correctly, would be unwatchable. Ziggy in 2009 would surely be occasionally popping up in Bizarre to complain about the way his Christmas Record got ignored by Radio One, and perhaps facing the ignominy of having Phil Jupitus fail to spot him in a Buzzcocks line-up ("... is it number two, Toomuch Angeldust?...")

Idol moments

The American Idol behemoth might be showing signs of running out of steam, but it's not quite ready to be reformatted as a daytime show yet. Not while local papers like Houma Today still gets excited by local people taking part:

The popular singing competition, which is entering its eighth year, attempts to discover amateur talent and make them into superstars.

And it was this opportunity that led Golden Meadow native Jordy Rousse to make a nearly 2,000-mile trek to Salt Lake City.

To get this sort of coverage, Rousse must have done pretty well, right?
While he didn’t get a chance to sing in front of celebrity judges Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul or Kara Dioguardi, that doesn’t mean Rousse failed miserably.

Rather, Rousse made it to the final part of the preliminaries before a contestant is sent in the room holding the quartet of celebrity judges.

“I got to meet with the producers,” Rousse said. “I sang for them, but it ended with them telling me I was a bit too theatrical for the show.”

Too theatrical? For American Idol? Given that most people turn up with a pantomime story of heartbreak and deliver the songs like they're attempting to launch Whitney Houston covers into space, how theatrical must Rousse be, to be "too theatrical"? Bloody hell, he must have his own atrium and team of stagehands, with Abe Lincoln being shot someone in his belly.

Still, nice try. It's not like you've thrown away a great chunk of your life to pursue going on a game show, is it?
“I ended up taking basically a semester off of school to pursue it,” he said. “I might wait to after college and give it another shot. I’ll just have to see. It was memorable and I did have a good time, but I can’t say right now whether or not I’d tryout a second time.”

A whole semester? I suppose it's lucky it wasn't The Price Is Right. How can you spend months preparing to sing a song for Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson? Most of their winning acts don't last a semester, never mind train for one.

Still, it's not like Rousse's life is over, is it? He's got a wide range of opportunities and excitements and surprises ahead of him. Right, Houma Today?

Gordon in the morning: Woman wears not-that-skimpy top

The thing about Gordon's piece on Daisy Lowe this morning is not just how tired it is:

Daisy's Lowe-cut top

DAISY LOWE is used to turning heads, not records. But that didn’t stop the party girl showcasing her talent behind the decks at The Plumm bar in New York.

But the top isn't even particularly low-cut. It's like Gordon's doing a tribute to those sketches where Victorian men get all hot and bothered by a glimpse of a naked ankle.

Still, at least there's nothing in the Press Complaints Commission code that says she shouldn't do it. Not like the story about Madonna and Guy's children which seems to be in the paper solely because of the fame of their parents. Given that it's only last week that Madonna was securing her injunction against the Mail to stop it publishing her wedding photos, it's surprising how relaxed she seems to be about the kids having their photos splashed about the papers.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet - Harvey's Rabbit

Teenage Kicks remembers Harvey's Rabbit, and wonders what became of them:

[S]uddenly they were the darlings of the NME. The future looked rosy. Then the syndrome kicked in with a vengeance. Two singles and two years later, they finally made an LP, The New Spiritual Vacuum, which the NME (again) characterized as 'a timeless, zeitgeist-free world of scruffy suits and grey skies; of marginally fierce attitude and chipper, slightly chummy tunes shot through with deadpan grace.'
And that, apparently, is all she wrote: their website still lists that LP as a new release, twelve years on.

Zavvi: fit for the future?

Business took me back to the neighbourhood of Zavvi yesterday, and I popped in. Fans of the chain will doubtless be delighted to hear this time they actually had proper bags for carrying purchases away in.

More worrying is that - considering the Milton Keynes branch is supposed to be one not about to close - the store looked, well, awfully like a shop that was about to close. Everything seemed to be deeply discounted. Indeed, so discounted that the price cuts had outpaced the ability of the store to print signs, so most of the "25%" and "50%" signs had been drawn on cardboard in marker pen.

But with everything on sale - at silly prices - were I employed in the store, I might be wondering what, exactly, the store is intended to be selling in two months' time. Reducing large levels of less-than-attractive stock you can see - but flogging off everything dirt cheap? That looks like an exit strategy.

Silver Jews reach the end

David Berman has made the required hand signals to mark the end of The Silver Jews. Oh, and explained why in a Drag City forum post:

I'm just going to play fifteen songs. My fifteen favorite ones.

A dollar per song. Plus Arnett Hollow. I don't

want to keep you underground for too long. Fall Creek Falls State Park State Lodge is great by the way.

Yes I cancelled the South American shows. I'll have to see the ABC Countries another way.

I guess I am moving over to another category. Screenwriting or Muckraking.

I've got to move on. Can't be like all the careerists doncha know.

I'm forty two and I know what to do.

I'm a writer, see?

Cassie is taking it the hardest. She's a fan and a player but she sees how happy i am with the decision.

I always said we would stop before we got bad. If I continue to record I might accidentally write the answer song to Shiny Happy People.

What, you thought I was going to hang on to the bitter end like Marybeth Hamilton?

I think that "avoiding writing an answer to an REM pop hit" has got to be the best answer to 'why are you ending the band' ever yet conceived, hasn't it?

Downloadable: Rikers

What can we tell you about Rikers? MP3 Hugger suggests they'd fit comfortably into a venn diagram intersect between the Bunnymen and Glasvegas, but why not judge for yourself by downloading the free mp3 Easter Eyes?

The lord moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform

Chris Cornell had been supposed to appear live on Isthmian Premier League US chatshow Jimmy Kimmel Live, but had to cancel. Because it rained.

True, he had been supposed to play on an outdoor stage, but given that every fete, fayre and hoe-down run by the smallest church manages to promote the idea that "if wet, the event will be held in the village hall", was it really beyond anyone's power to, you know, move the event inside? It's almost as if nobody was that arsed about Cornell appearing in the first place, isn't it?

Chris Martin loves the environment

Chris Martin might have made himself look a little two-faced driving an SUV in a city centre while campaigning for the environment. The private jet would suggest a third, maybe fourth face.

... and who has invaded whose privacy?

The story gets worse over at the News of the World, who not only manage to be EVEN MORE OUTRAGED than the Mail, but start to dig around to try and work out who the 80 year-old woman might be:

And last night as it emerged that the woman is a REAL PERSON with ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE there were mounting calls for Ross to be SACKED from his £6 million-a-year job.

But unless you're really suffering from an ability to process a joke, or intimate with the details of Ross sidekick's Andy Davies' private life, you wouldn't know the specific woman, and clearly the joke wasn't invading her privacy. Unlike, say, a British tabloid poking about to try and stir up some faux-outrage.

The News Of The World also drops in a fabrication:
The mega-bucks star’s crude joke about sex with an 80-year-old woman infuriated listeners.

Except nobody complained. So these are "listeners" who were infuriated but didn't do anything about it. How does the Screws know of this "infuriated" listener base?

Apparently it has one:
Regular Radio 2 listener Nigel Langstone, 43, from Leamington, Warwickshire, was furious over Ross’s comments and said: “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“He gets kicked off air for three months for hounding an old man with disgusting comments about his grand-daughter.

“Then virtually the first thing he does after getting back is start telling a gag about sex with an 80-year-old woman. How insensitive can you be?

“It just shows he’s learned absolutely nothing and is a loose cannon who can’t be controlled.

“What’s worse is that the exchange happened with his own producer—the man who’s supposed to control him.

“The BBC is totally OUT of control. They’ve no idea how much offence they’re causing.

“Ross should be taken off air immediately. He’s a timebomb waiting to go off.”

You're a regular Radio 2 listener, and yet seem surprised by Jonathan Ross's show? It's like being a Radio 2 listener and saying "I can't believe that Terry Wogan waffles on with no consequence before playing a song off the Best Of Motown...", surely?

Anyone else want to clamber on the pretend outrage bandwagon?
Meanwhile former Home Secretary David Blunkett called for Ross’s pay to be docked as a result of this latest incident. He said: “It’s time for Ross to donate some of his salary to charity.”

Eh? How does that even make sense? I can understand - just about - people pretending to be shocked or horrified; you can even understand the News of the World and the Mail churning out acres of copy about it. But surely, Blunkett, either he's behaved badly and should quit, or he's edgy but doing what he's paid for. In what way is "it's okay to make jokes about sex with octogenarians providing you give your pay for that day to charity" even approaching an coherent response?

At the end, it's about understanding what your audience wants and what they feel happy with. After all, a lot of the stuff in the News of the World seems to a casual observer as too explicit for a publication which isn't on the top shelf, but it's about knowing your audience. Having said which, if the News Of The World really believes its buyers want to read non-stories attacking a few moments of radio they probably haven't heard, or would have enjoyed if they had, it presumably wouldn't be selling fewer copies than at any point in the last 50 years.