Saturday, February 28, 2009

Virgin Megastores: Now we are three

Tick, tick, tick: Virgin Megastores shrink further in the US, with more closures announced. The chain will now consist of just three stores, and you wouldn't put bets on them lasting much longer, either.

Joan As Police Woman weekend: Fire

Joan Wasser does Jimi Hendrix, in Utrecht:

[Part of the Joan As Police Woman weekend]

U2: The distance between myth and fact

According to

U2 brought London to a standstill tonight (February 27) after performing a surprise rooftop gig.

If you watch the footage on BBC Red Button, you'll note two things: first, that Broadcasting House roof is a pointless place to play a gig as it's too high for anyone to see what's going on there.

The second is that the traffic looks really pretty from on high as it... well, continues to flow down on the ground.

Kennedy assassinated

Thanks to Gary W for pointing me in the direction of this gem from the Pirate Bay trial:

Laughter filled The Pirate Bay trial here Wednesday when John Kennedy, the chief executive of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, testified that people would have purchased every music track they got free file sharing.

Kennedy answered an affirmative "Yes" to Pirate Bay defense attorneys when asked whether that was true. Bursting laughter could be heard from the audio room beside the courtroom where the trial's sound was being broadcast.

Although equally amusing - for, perhaps, different reasons, was this:
[Universals' Per] Sundin concluded the day's testimony and perhaps was the most aggressive witness. He testified Pirate Bay was the root of the industry's financial woes.

Pirate Bay launched in November 2003. Is Per Sundin claiming that the music industry was solid and looking forward to a bright future prior to that?

Joan As Police Woman weekend: Furious

Recorded live in La Scala, 12th June, 2008:

[Part of the Joan As Police Woman weekend]

Mail ejects CDs, DVDs

The Daily Mail (although, explicitly, not the McFly pushing Mail On Sunday) is going to stop giving away covermounts. Someone has apparently noticed that it's a bloody expensive way of adding short-term readers without providing any long-term benefits.

French music site made much, much worse

Deezer had been doing for French music fans what Spotify has been doing for the Anglophone and Scandinavian audience.

Now, though, it's been 'improved' in a way which suggests the dead fingers of the music industry throttling another golden goose. You now need to have an account, accept your email address getting sold on to anyone Deezer chooses, and:

But here’s the worst part: some tracks on members’ playlists have simply become inaccessible, due to “territorial restrictions” imposed by the record companies. Hence, a song from a UK album version can in some cases no longer be listened to in France. The member then has to search for the track again on a French or international version of the album – assuming there is one.

The Deezer team have been trying to defend their position:
Jonathan Benassaya, one of the co-founders of Deezer, justified these changes in an interview (in French) with French IT news site PC INpact.

Seemingly unapologetic, he said: “We all want to say that with the internet there are no longer any borders, except that the music industry still reasons in terms of territorialities. We need to reassure this industry because without them we can’t live. Indeed, the Deezernauts are not happy, which is natural, but on the other hand Deezer needs to be able to grow and remain the star pupil, and as long as we’re like that we’ll be able to move forward with the industry. This industry is not well and, in such a situation, we have to accompany them.”

It must be a tricky position to play: you need the licences, and if those who offer the licences are idiots, you have to pretend to like their idiocy. Trouble is, the price of remaining star pupil is discovering that, outside the classroom, you start to fall behind everyone else.

Joan As Police Woman weekend: Flushed Chest

This is from a BBC Collective session Joan Wasser performed in August 2006:

The whole session is available on the BBC Collective website

[Part of Joan As Police Woman weekend]

Darkness at 3AM: Lesbians eat food - just like everyone else

Surely, a couple of years back, Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson going into Somerfield would have been a story so slight it would have struggled to make the grade for a "spotted" item? Now, though, 3AM clears space for in-depth reportage:

Good old Linds... she seems more than happy to muck it along with the rest of us.

With the cream of the capital's shops to choose from she and girlfriend Sam Ronson ended up in Somerfield.

And, fair play to the American lovebirds, they seemed to love every minute of it!

They were buying snacks. Of course they'd nip into the nearest convenience store. Even spray-tan millionaires aren't going to drive to Selfridges to buy a box of cereal, are they?
Linds was positively beaming as she handpicked her Coco Pops and Fanta, even swiping them through at a self-service till for the full experience.

She handpicked her CocoPops? Or did she just pick up a box from the front of the shelf?
Isn't it wonderful being normal? We can just imagine her gushing to Sam about all the fabulous bargains.

It is normal, you're right, 3AMies. Normal. As in "an everyday bloody occurrence of no consequence whatsoever, even if you list the purchased items". Normal. Even if you "imagine" a conversation where Lohan talks to Samantha Ronson about the price of breakfast cereal.

You could almost feel sorry for Lily Allen

Given the way she moaned on about being featured by OK, you'd probably be a bit surprised that Lily Allen has no problem being interviewed by the Daily Mail. Perhaps some told her it was a very prestigious newspaper - you know how much she loves those.

It didn't go well, sadly. Oh, the gentle plugfest passed by happily enough. The problem for Lily, though, is the headline albatross attached to the neck of the piece:

Lily Allen: Why I've got the hots for Boris Johnson

She's got the hots for the world's most useless mayor? And is going to not just reveal this, but explain the reasons? Let's pull up a chair, shall we?
I quite fancy Boris Johnson, even though he's a Tory. He's very funny and charming.

Oh. So it's not "I have the hots for" - it's "heh, he's kinda cute". And not much on the why, either.

You could almost feel sorry for her. Almost.

RIAA feels the cold chill of efficiency

Let's face it, any organisation that requires money to keep running is having a tricky time of it right now. But if you're a failing organisation, lacking a strategy, having burned through enormous sums on legal fees with the only outcome making an industry despised, you're going to have to work a lot harder when it comes to getting the subscription renewals in.

Hypebot is reporting a deep-throat on the slashing of budgets at the RIAA:

RIAA "It is about 90-100+ people across the US and global offices - anti-piracy, coordinated IFPI/BPI etc - trust me it's a bloodbath...

(Major label heads) Hands, Morris are squeezing the ____ out of these guys after the ISP failure and a major budget cut. (The) RIAA as you know it is probably history by Tuesday of next week, a formal announcement is being drafted for drop next week.

The new group is a aggregate of IFPI + remaining pieces of BPI + RIAA - (a) new leaner, coordinated group...DC offices are getting closed except for one part of one floor on Conn. Ave., just for the address."

What's especially interesting about this is that it suggests a dropping of the fiction that the BPI is a group representing the British music industry and an admission that its real role is promoting the interests of multinational organisations even if it is at the expense of smaller, local companies.

And if that is the case, Andy Burnham and the DCMS is going to have put on a very good explanation of why the BPI should be allowed more than a secondary influence on UK government policy.

It sounds like we could be in for an interesting week.

T in The Park sells out

Want to go to T in the Park? Too late, if you intend to spend your nights there: camping tickets have sold out.

Joan As Police Woman weekend: To America

Back to last year, and Joan doing To America in Codroipo:

[Part of Joan As Police Woman weekend]

It Hugs Back with an EuroRail pass

Some splendid news - the Holy Fuck European tour has suddenly gotten about three thousand times more alluring with the addition of the lovely It Hugs Back onto the bill.

This would be their tour dates:
Monday 20th April - Nijmegen, Holland @ Doornroosje
Tuesday 21st April - Amsterdam, Holland @ Melkweg
Wednesday 22nd April - Groningen, Holland @ Vera
Friday 24th April - Brussels, Belgium @ AB Club
Saturday 25th April - Koln, Germany @ Gebaude 9
Sunday 26th April - Hamburg, Germany @ Molotow
Monday 27th April - Berlin, Germany @ Magnet
Tuesday 28th April - Munchen, Germany @ Ampere
Wednesday 29th April - Schorndorf, Germany @ Manufaktur
Thursday 30th April - Vienna, Austria @ Wuk Foyer
Friday 1st May - Rorschach, Switzerland @ Mariaberg
Saturday 2nd May - Strasbourg, France @ La Laiterie
Monday 4th May - Heidelberg, Germany @ Karlstorbahnhof
Tuesday 5th May - Nancy, France @ L'aute Canal
Wednesday 6th May - Paris, France @ Point FMR
Friday 8th May - Oxford, England @ Academy
Saturday 9th May - Canterbury, England @ The Farmhouse
Sunday 10th May - Manchester, England @ Academy 3
Monday 11th May - Glasgow, Scotland @ Oran Mor
Tuesday 12th May - Birmingham, England @ Academy 2
Wednesday 13th May - Liverpool, England @ Academy 2
Thursday 14th May - London, England @ The Scala

Downloadable: Superdrag

Some free music is always good; even better when it's the lovely, lovely Superdrag. They've made a couple of tracks from Industry Giants available for free via their Nimbit store. It's a bit fiddly, involving signing-up and emails whispering through the ether, but it's free Superdrag music - surely worth walking down a stony street without shoes?

Embed and Breakfast man: Joan As Police Woman

It's been too long since I've spent a weekend lobbing videos from a single artist up. This weekend, then, a video-filled tribute to the genius that is Joan As Police Woman.

The great thing about JAPW is that it was (she was?) Joan Wasser's way of organising one side of her life. The great thing about JAPW is that the person-as-band title was a Angie Dickinson reference. The great thing about JAPW is so many things, things like this, Eternal Flame:

Research: JAPW elsewhere on the web
Jude Rogers interviews Joan
TheScene meets Joan
Official website
Last FM
Joan Wasser on Wikipedia
No Rock Joan As Police Woman posts

Buy and/or download
Download Start of My Heart, free and official
Download Joan As Police Woman mp3s from Amazon
To Survive - CD version
To Survive - mp3 version
Real Life - CD version
Real Life - mp3 version

The Joan As Police Woman weekend videos
Start Of My Heart video
To America live
Flushed Chest in session
Furious live
Fire live
more to come

Gordon in the morning: Valuing the Brand

If there's one thing we can be sure about with The Sun, it's that it isn't impressed with Russell Brand. Last October, The Sun Says outrageditorial fumed:

It says a lot, in these days of routine F-words and sex jibes, that serial offenders Brand and Ross have outraged even their own fans.

Even their own fans - who, clearly, are people who have very, very low moral standards - even they have had enough. The paper might even have suggested Brand delivered disgusting stupidity on air.

It's good that a newspaper can take a firm, moral position and... sorry, Gordon? What did you say?
RUSSELL BRAND is making his radio comeback hosting a football show with pal NOEL GALLAGHER.

It will be Russell’s return to the airwaves since quitting his BBC Radio 2 show in October after making prank calls to Fawlty Towers star ANDREW SACHS.

But... isn't Brand known for his disgusting stupidity? Wasn't Andrew Sachs - what was the phrase? - "held in affection by millions worldwide for his priceless role as Manuel"?

Luckily, even Gordon knows a 180 when he makes one on his paper's behalf:
Swordsman Russell apologised and fell on his, erm, sword after the Sachsgate scandal where he and JONATHAN ROSS left messages on Andrew’s answerphone about his fling with the actor’s granddaughter GEORGINA BAILLIE.

But I reckon he has served his time and personally I am pleased to hear his unique style back on the wireless.

Oh. So, somehow, that whole firestorm last October - all we needed was to wait a couple of months and everything would be forgotten and forgiven, huh? Although somehow not for Jonathan Ross, who didn't seem to have served his time when he returned.

And, yes, let's just pretend that Noel Gallagher's name wasn't mentioned there, shall we?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lily Allen is upset with the New York Times

In fact, she believes that:

The New York Time are cheap skanks

So cheap, there's only a single Time, it seems.

Lily is annoyed that the New York Times syndicated the photos it took of her for a piece in the magazine.

There's a lot of scene-setting in Allen's complaint. An awful lot. Here's a quick canter through what you have to wade past:
So, something has been really bugging me [...] Ambrosia my press agent and friend called me very excited [...] the cover of their Arts section. [...] goes without saying The New York Times is an incredibly prestigious publication [...] would fly in from New York, hang out at my house [...] feel more relaxed and then we’d go out for dinner after [...] she was called Milena and she [...] showed her round [...] an ISSA patterned all in one, louboutins, hoop earrings [...] got out her Dictaphone [...] interview for an hour, hour and a half [...] this restaurant called the Wolsley [...] a bottle of wine I wasn’t really drinking at the time [...] I decided to let my barriers down [...] Wiener Schnitzel [...] Duck [...] shared a pickled cucumber salad thing [...] left Milena with my friend Louis [...] she and Louis seemed to get along [...] my email address and contact details [...] all she need do is ask, and I bid them both farewell [...] a little awkward about her paying for dinner, but she insisted [...] a photographer whose name escapes me came round to the house to take a picture to accompany the NYT piece, [...] piece was so intimate and the biggest part of the interview had been conducted at my house [...] allow photographers into my home [...] special circumstances and after all TNYT is one of the most respected news publications in the world. [...] article came out [...] a really nice piece with a picture of me sat on my sofa, on the cover of the arts section. [...] I saw Milena was in New York [...] Bowery Ballroom and had an after party [...] I thanked her for the article as it was very complimentary ,it’s not often people write nice things about me.

So, with all that detail, you might be wondering what it is that Milena did to her. Did she make up a story that Lily doesn't have a plug and fresh in her bathroom? Did she double-dip the shared pickled cucumber?
Now I want to be clear, this has nothing to do with Milena she is a reporter and that is all. The reason what I’m about to tell you is so hurtful is because I had a really nice time with her and I feel that I will only ever feel badly about that day in London from now on .

Yes, after wading through a small novel about the interview, it turns out that the complaint is actually about the photographs. Still, I guess it's important for Lily to mention a couple of times that the New York Times is a prestigious newspaper which put her on the prestigious front page of its very, very prestigious arts supplement which is known around the world for its prestigiousness.

The problem is that New York Times syndicated the photos and they appeared in OK. Because Lily never signed a contract with the company to say they couldn't.

She seems to think that by selling photographs they had obtained openly and fairly, the New York Times has done something wrong - quoting their response:
I am sorry to say that we have no record or recollection of your client or her representatives ever requesting any restriction on our exploitation of the photographs. Indeed, it is not our general policy to accede to such restrictions, so it is certainly not something we would have agreed to without a written agreement confirming such arrangement.

As the copyright owner of thousands of photographs, a significant part of our business, like most news organizations, is the syndication of photos to third parties. This is very standard in the news business and I'm sorry that it comes as a surprise to your client. Under the circumstances, we are unable to provide you with the assurances you have requested.

I do hope, however, that our correspondence sheds some light on this issue for your client's future arrangements.

Nobody would want their photos to appear in OK unexpectedly, but Allen - or rather, her press agent - appears to not have understood the way things work. She also doesn't seem to have understood the response from the New York Times, either:
Uuuuurrggh , so patronizing, and gross. The world has become a dark place when The New York Times considers OK magazine to be “the news business”. Sorry if that made for tedious reading but, I think the NYT have behaved really badly and I wanted to vent .

The Times doesn't say OK is in the news business - it says that selling on photos is common in the news business. Which is true.

It's unfortunate that OK then used the pictures to imply that Allen had spoken to them - that is wrong (and actions for which OK have apparently apologised to Allen). But selling on of photos is usual (that's how picture libraries function, Lily) and if you don't want it to happen, you make that clear before the shoot. To try and imply some sort of unfairness after the fact is like complaining that someone stole your purse when you left it on the bar while you went to the toilet - however sympathetic an observer might be, you left yourself wide open.

But you know what really hurts Allen?
It’s one thing posing for a picture fro TNYT and wholly another letting OK into your house, and I didn’t even get paid ☹

Bono: tickets at all prices

I guess these comments depend on what sort of filter you're looking through, as Bono tells Jo Whiley about pricing policies for the new U2 tour:

"We're trying to work on some cheaper ticket prices because this is the recession. We're also going to have some very expensive ticket prices because rich people have feelings too!"

If you look through Bono's glasses, it's probably just a joke. But from this side, it first sounds like the sort of thing a rich person is funny. And then, it raises a big question: if there wasn't a recession, would Bono and the boys just be cranking up the ticket price as far as it would go?

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet: The Cure

A&Rmchair goes to the big NME Awards show:

The gig we were at was the NME Awards Big Gig - a show sponsored by Shockwaves, which for many of the fellas keeping babysitters in business that night, seemed an inappropriate product given our follicular state. It wasn't all about the headline act though - The Cure may have managed to pretty much fill the 23,000 capacity venue but it was Franz Ferdinand who gave it some NME flavour - I doubt whether many of the folk there had ever heard of Crystal Castles and you know my thoughts on White Lies already - we missed them both last night by the way, as we were more usefully spending that time patrolling the cavernous Dome looking for its Box Office, queuing up, being sent to another Gate because of a 'ticket misprint' etc etc. White Lies were about to release their follow up album by the time we got in.

Kristin Hersh in the UK

Tour dates just appeared over on Kristin Hersh's website
Throwing Muses
Minehead, England - May 15, 2009
All Tomorrow's Parties

Kristin Hersh
Bracknell, England - May 16, 2009
South Hill Park Arts Centre

Kristin Hersh
Gateshead, England - May 17, 2009
The Sage

Kristin Hersh
Glasgow, Scotland - May 18, 2009
King Tut's

Kristin Hersh
Aberdeen, Scotland - May 19, 2009
Lemon Tree

Kristin Hersh
York, England - May 22, 2009
The Duchess

Kristin Hersh
Lancaster, England - May 23, 2009
The Storey

Kristin Hersh
Burnley, England - May 24, 2009
Burnley Library

Kristin Hersh
Norwich, England - May 26, 2009
Arts Centre

Kristin Hersh
Brighton, England - May 27, 2009
Duke of Yorks

Kristin Hersh
Portsmouth, England - May 28, 2009
Wedgewood Rooms

Bono explains his tax position

The claims of hypocrisy leveled at Bono for his inventive approach to taxation is fairly simple.

He's keen to tell governments how to marshal their funds, while simultaneously arranging his personal affairs to both reduce income for the Exchequer in the country that raised and educated him, and of which he claims to be proud, while minimising the tax he - an already wealthy-beyond-the-dreams individual - pays.

Aha - but Bono has an equaly simply explanation of why he isn't a greedy hypocrite:

”We pay millions and millions of dollars in tax. The thing that stung us was the accusation of hypocrisy for my work as an activist.

“I can understand how people outside the country wouldn’t understand how Ireland got to its prosperity but everybody in Ireland knows that there are some very clever people in the Government and in the Revenue who created a financial architecture that prospered the entire nation.

“It was a way of attracting people to this country who wouldn’t normally do business here and the financial services brought billions of dollars every year directly to the Exchequer.

“What’s actually hypocritical is the idea that then you don’t use a financial services centre in Holland. The real question people need to ask about Ireland’s tax policy is:’Was the nation a net gain benefactor?’ and of course it was – hugely so.

“So there was no hypocrisy for me. We’re just part of a system that has benefited the nation greatly and that’s a system that will be closed down in time. Ireland will have to find other ways of being competitive and attractive.”

Right. So, to the charge of 'you are a rich man who calls on governments to do more to help the poorest, while doing all you can to reduce the level of funding available to government' your response is 'isn't it more hypocritical to suggest you shouldn't run your finances through an office in the Netherlands?'

Kudos to the Irish Times for actually having asked Bono about the tax position. That this is breaking some sort of sacrament is shown by the total breakdown in Bono's thought processes. It suddenly becomes clear that he's also folding in the tax breaks for industries offered by the Irish government as well:
When told that Christian Aid had mentioned him in a 2007 report called Death and Taxes: The True Toll of Tax Dodging, he replied:”It hurts when the criticism comes internationally.

“But I can’t speak up without betraying my relationship with the band. So you take the shit. People who don’t know our music – it's very easy for them to take a position on us, they run with the stereotypes and caricature of us.”

In what way does he think Christian Aid might be less critical of their self-serving tax arrangements if they knew U2 music intimately? Is there some backmasking on tracks going "it's not illegal, it's avoidance not evasion" over and over?

The simple truth: you can't simultaneously call on everyone to do more and arrange for yourself to do less. No wonder he doesn't have an answer.

Gordon in the morning: Madonna is computers

Wow. Who knew there was still mileage left in the Madonna-Mrs Madonna divorce?

Actually, there isn't, but Gordon's team are going to have a go.

Guy calls Madonna 'IT'

IT? He thinks she's information technology? Can this be right, Sara Nathan?

It turns out she means It. Not IT:
A source revealed: “Guy will say, ‘Oh, It’s in a bad mood today’

Would rather than will, don't you mean? After all, there's not much reason why Ritchies should be reporting on the twinges of Madonna's moods at the moment, is there?
Could this story be as whiskery as... well, this mock-up which we're told is meant to represent either Madonna as Cousin It, or Cousin It as Madonna.
“Even towards the end of their marriage, he would call her It. He told people, ‘We can’t make It angry’.

"Even" toward the end? Like when they were splitting up? Is it surprising that his contempt for his wife should grow rather than decline as the marriage failed?
“There is absolutely no love lost between them.”

That's quite a scoop. If I didn't know better, I'd think Sara's kind of hinting around that the pair might be heading for the divorce court.

Gordon, meanwhile, is cleaning up at the NME awards:
Now I hear bandmate SARAH HARDING has also found herself in hot bog water.

She was at the NME Awards’ aftershow bash when staff trying to close the club found her in the toilets.

Apparently Sarah didn't want to go and started to complain when helped towards the exit.

Gordon is quick to spot the parallel:
WHAT is it with members of GIRLS ALOUD and toilet attendants?

CHERYL COLE ran into trouble in 2003 when she was accused of assaulting a loo supervisor in a club.

The odd thing, though, is the appearance of the word "accused" there - does Gordon not know that she was actually convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm? With the judge telling her that "this was an unpleasant piece of drunken violence... you showed no remorse whatsoever"? Or does Gordon recall that, but is afraid to remind people of what happened now that Cole is being lined up as some sort of new Kylie?

Fair enough, there's no need for Cole's conviction to be dredged up all the time, but if you are going to write a story that relies on her punching a poorly-paid toilet attendant, should you really soften the facts to make it sound as if it was an accusation rather than a verdict in a jury trial?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hands back money: How much of a mess is EMI in?

Terrible times for Guy Hands and the Terra Firma stewardship of EMI: Hands has had to buy out some of the investors who helped buy the label in the first place.

Still, he's not had to pay much to buy them out. I say "still", although that would imply it's a good thing. In fact, the investors were quite prepared to take a bath on their shares just to be rid of the valueless investment.

Bad Idea explains why it's, well, a bad idea:

taking on the responsibility will increase Terra Firma’s indebtedness once the calls for funding come in - the money will have to come from the fund managers themselves, a rare and strange thing to happen.

It comes as Hands is gearing up to pay Citigroup a £32m quarterly loan payment, and spewing out cliched metaphors concerning his rather worrying portfolio of deals made at the top of the market. He’s noted that “the darkest time is before the dawn”, that he’s “getting out of both sides of the bed” (?), and has compared his pricey investments to ‘83 and ‘87 Bordeaux wines, a comparison that could only be understood by the most ridiculously wealthy people on the planet - at least Hands knows his audience.

To be fair, I think we can all understand the wine metaphor - it costs an absolute bloody fortune, there's every chance the thing has ruined before you get to enjoy it, and once you have the first taste, your asset starts to free-fall in value to almost zero straight away.

[Thanks to Michael M]

Gordon in the morning: A kinder, gentler Gordon

Hold the front page. Or at least the top of the page... Gordon's updated his byline picture:

Gone is the awkward suit - described by Gordon, of course, as "gay" - and the strange holding of the hand as if shielding the ring finger stance.

In comes... what is that, exactly? Harry Cross on a public order charge? "The sociology teacher was relieved to have got through the Ofsted inspection without year 11 asking questions about same-sex marriage or race?"

You've got to love that strange, ethereal glow around him - is that the protection of a loving god? A recent bowl of Reddy Brek?

Otherwise, it's business as usual: NME Awards coverage with this:

Blur are no longer NMEs

NME/enemy? I first saw that used in a Smash Hits letters page in 1979, and I suspect it was whiskery then. It doesn't even make any sense, does it? As - last night, at least - the Blur reunion was NME's. "NME's - not enemies" you might have got away with.

But, tell me, Gordon - where was the ceremony?
London’s Brixton Academy.

London's Brixton Academy. Not, you'll note, the Brixton Academy in York or Brixton, Alabama.

The Enemy had a great time:
THE ENEMY’s TOM CLARKE told me: “It’s nice not being nominated ’coz there’s no pressure. We’re just gonna have a laugh and get pissed.”

How brilliant it is not having to be worried the whole time that we might find the public love us and value our records. Ooh, the sweet joy of having the pressure of being popular lifted from our weary shoulders. You know what? We might make another underwhelming record next year, so that we don't have to worry about anything other than getting drunk at the 2010 awards.

NME Awards 2009: It's like a cultural pulse taking

If you really wanted to know how seriously to take the NME Awards - which were lobbed out last night - use this headline as a calibration tool:

Alexa Chung beats boyfriend Alex Turner to Best Dressed award

You might have thought that this year - which is 2009 - the event might have been webcast in some form. Some form more elaborate than three traffic news style webcam. Even the scoop of the evening - Coxon and Albarn doing This Is A Low - comes with a go elsewhere suggestion:
No video footage to bring you just yet (you'll have to watch Channel 4 on Friday night/Saturday morning)

So, the winners in full, then?

Best live band - Muse
Godlike genius - The Cure
Best dressed - Alexa Chung
Worst dressed - Amy Winehouse
Villain of the year - George Bush
Worst band - Jonas Brothers
Sexiest female - Hayley Williams (the online coverage manages to make this even more icky by calling her "rock's hottest lady")
Best album artwork - Muse - HAARP
Best website - YouTube
Sexiest male - Matt Bellamy
Best venue - London Astoria (sniff)
Best blog - Noel Gallagher (arf)
Hero of the year - Barack Obama
Best British band - Oasis (in 2009!)
Best video - Last Shadow Puppets
Best track - MGMT - Time To Pretend
Best International band - The Killers
Outstanding contribution - Elbow
Best solo artist - Pete Doherty (again: in 2009)
Best TV show - The Mighty Boosh
Best live event - Glastonbury
Best album - Kings Of Leon - Only By The Night
Best dancefloor filler, whatever that actually means - Dizzee Rascal - Dance Wiv Me
Best new band - MGMT

You'd have to say that, barring MGMT's prize for best track, it's hard to imagine a more conservative collection of prizes. Oasis, Pete Doherty. Muse again and again and again - although, to be fair, it's nice that there is still a forum where Muse's deep but less-than-visible fanbase can get acknowledged. Every year.

I'm also not sure about the magazine-gifted 'outstanding contribution' to Elbow. It's not that it's undeserved, but shouldn't the NME have been the first place to treat Elbow as something special, rather than waiting until everyone from the Brits to the Mercury via the TV Times Awards had endorsed the band and then falling into line?

The NME - if it wants to remain what it was - might want to think about how it can be the sort of place where Time To Pretend getting a prize doesn't seem to be the one that's out of step with the others.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Barenaked Ladies singer wishes he had a million dollars severance

The Barenaked Ladies have decided they'll face the future with Steven Page, what with all his drugs:

"By mutual agreement, Steven Page will be parting company with the remaining members of Barenaked Ladies" in order to pursue solo music projects and a theatrical career, the group said on its website.

Page was caught with some cocaine, which seems to have been the final straw. How could the band sing lightly humorous songs while people knew he did cocaine? It'd be like Angus Deayton on Have I Got News For You all over again.

So, like Deayton, Page has gone. He won't, it appears, be replaced with William Hague and Jeremy Clarkson as part of a rotating series of guest lead singers.

Pirate Bay trial: Hang on, let's try again

Having had to throw overboard the more serious half of its charges, the prosecution in the Pirate Bay trial has now changed its remaining charges once again:

According to, the original charge read:

The Pirate Bay consists of three sub-components: an index portal in the form of a website with search functionality, a database with related directory containing the torrent files, and a tracker feature. The tracker feature creates a 'peer-to-peer' network of users who want to share the same file. All components are necessary for the users of the service to share files between them.

The last sentence has been dropped, indicating the prosecution was unsure that it could prove all of the points in the original charges, according to Swedish legal experts.

Prosecutors also changed the phrase "provide the ability to others to upload torrent files to the service" to "provide the ability to others to upload and store torrent files to the service", according to

Is this entirely fair? Why not just allow the charges to be changed to "The Pirate Bay had a logo with a boat on"? That would be even easier to prove, surely?

That the prosecution have had their panicky moment today suggests that the star witness, John Kennedy of the IFPI, hadn't performed as they'd hoped. He'd even been ticked off by the judge for trying to turn the trial into a political soapbox (not like there isn't a political element to the prosecution in the first place).

Only a massive monopoly ticketbeast can save music, says massive monopoly ticketbeast

The proposals to merge Ticketmaster and LiveNation into a single focus of hatred and disgust have come before the wise lawmakers on Capitol Hill, with attempts to save the entire US economy taking back seat to hearings on the plan:

The subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights used the approximately 90-minute hearing to discuss how the possible merger could affect ticket prices, the impact it would have on new ticketing businesses wanting to enter the marketplace and how it might expose sales data from rival promoters, among other issues.

They also crammed in a few questions on what it would mean for Guam, the likelihood of life on other planets and why gorillas don't keep evolving into people. After all, you'd find it difficult to fill an hour and a half with just the future of live music.

The CEOs of the two companies went to Washington, to tell everyone how great their new world would be made. Live Nation president/CEO Michael Rapino and Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff can hardly wait to be allowed to make out in public. It's not just a new world they're proposing - it's a whole different world. One with different physics in:
"Artists don't sit around and say, 'Let's raise prices,'" said Azoff, who also heads up Ticketmaster's Front Line Management, which has a roster of more than 200 acts. "If we're successful in doing this, I for sure think we'll be able to show that ticket prices will go down, because it will create a bigger pot of money for artists from other avenues in their careers."

Ah yes. Because merging a giant promotion company with a giant ticket agency is an action which generates large pots of money from out of nowhere. Like when you open a self-seal envelope in the dark and it makes blue light. That's exactly the way this will make money.

Let's buy Azoff's starling claim for just a moment, and imagine Kid Rock and his manager getting ready to set prices for his shows next summer.

- Hey, Kid, you were going to charge thirty bucks a ticket, right?
- Yeah
- Did you know that the geological collision of Ticketmaster and LiveNation has created huge new pots of money?
- No... can we have some of that money?
- Yes. Yes, we can.
- Right. So... given that we've got all this new money, do we want to drop the prices of tickets any?
- Do we have to? Because of the new money?
- Well... no. But we could. We could share our good fortune with the fans.
[long, awkward pause]
- Okay, thirty bucks a ticket it is.
- Plus booking fee.
- Plus booking fee.

And that fee is where the real trouble lies. Sure, bands might not put up their prices simply because Evil and Evil have become Consolidated Evil, but surely the whole being-less-competition-in-the-music-ticketing-business might very well force up the fees being charged on top of the ticket price?

I could be wrong, though. Apparently the concert-goers will welcome their new twin-faced, one-bodied overlords with in-street merry jigging:
Rapino said the combined companies would not hurt music fans or rival businesses. "This deal would benefit them as we spur competition and innovation," he said. "If we don't make significant changes to the business model and if we don't build new structures, we may be back here in the future for another hearing on the death of the American music industry."

Nothing spurs competition like having a single, unassailable corporate monolith at the heart of an industry. Who does TicketNation think is going to be competing with them, as they suck up every ticket deal for every venue of any size in the US? Does he think that the free market will suddenly spur everyone to travel to Boise to go and see jugbands as a result of the merger?

Still: you've got it there in black and white - if you don't let the executives share a board table, you will kill music. Think hard, and picture a world where LiveNation does a bit of ticketing and mostly promotes, and Ticketmaster does a bit of management but mostly charges scandalous mark-ups on ticket prices. What does that world sound like? It's silent, isn't it? Even the birds will stop singing if this merger is allowed to fail.

It's as serious as that.

Still, there's all those other ticketing businesses:
Azoff argued that the merger could bring new opportunities for existing ticketing companies. "We've been told and we believe that if this merger were approved, that many of our larger clients would opt out," he said, pointing out that Ticketmaster has about 11,000 clients. "From hearing all the comments that I hear, I think that so many people would be upset about this merger that I'm sure a lot of our clients would leave."

Not, of course, that anyone is upset at the merger. Azoff is quite blase about the prospect of other clients running to those other ticket agencies, such as... uh, the other ticket places. Almost as if, ooh, his new company would run a load of large venues, represent the management of several big bands and promote a sizeable chunk of America's live music.

As a general rule of thumb, if a manager is prepared to stand up in public and virtually hope that customers might take their business elsewhere, the customers are unlikely to be blue chip.

Some promoters are worried that Ticketmaster having a big promotions business of their own would leave their data open to being shown to the competition:
Rapino assured the subcommittee that Live Nation Entertainment's concert division "would not have access to the ticketing division data. He added, "the concert division should have no access to anything [...] any other promoter does in any building or anything in the ticketing business."

And, if we've learned one thing in the last twelve months, you can always rely on a massive corporation to be nothing other than totally trustworthy.

Burnham seeks to start global war on downloading

Andy Burnham, out of the DCMS, is still seeing his job as doing the record company's bidding and not protecting the consumer, and wants an international strategy to beat "illegal" downloading:

"I am working towards an international memorandum of understanding, it is time for much more serious dialogue with European and US partners. No solely national solution will work. It can only be durable with international consensus," he added.

Seriously, Andy? You think a handful of snaffled mp3 files and a tiny sum in potential lost sales is so bloody important you need to convene a world parliament to fight BitTorrent?

An internationa memorandum of understanding, no less. Serious dialogue. International consensus.

This is people sucking down a few old Wham! songs and the odd record-company-created leak of U2's latest you're talking about, Andy. It's not The Penguin weaponising his umbrella, or global warming. God forbid you worry more about global warming.

Still, Burnham's got to get it right at home first. He's going to need a strategy. No, that won't do it. There must be two strategies. At the very least. In fact:
Burnham said he is aiming to "bring the threads together" with a five-pronged strategy to help the UK music industry. "It is an incredibly important industry to this country and perhaps it has not been focused on in the way it should. There is a strong sense that this is the year we have to bring this stuff off, we have a head of steam, a bit of momentum," he added.

It's nice to see Burnham demonstrate the strength of the UK's creativity by using a metaphor coined in the age of steam trains.

You've got to love the idea that Burnham seems to believe that nobody has really focused on the unlicensed download question. Even while John Kennedy of the IFPI is stood in a court testifying in the Pirate Bay trial.

By the way: The Digital Britain report - which includes the suggestion that it become law for ISPs to send letters to filesharers - is currently being sliced and diced to allow you to comment through the mighty

Gordon in the morning: ... and Rupert too

With Rupert Murdoch standing up to claim ultimate responsibility for the New York Daily Post's editorial cartoons, we can only conclude that everything that appears in all his papers is really down to him.

So, what has Gordon Smart been doing in Rupert's name this morning?

Yes, more minute-by-minute coverage of what Lady GaGa is wearing. Today, though, Gordon's not impressed:

THE trouble with making your name by going out in your pants is that you need increasingly inventive ways to grab people’s attention.

LADY GAGA is clearly struggling with this predicament.

She walked to a photoshoot in Paris looking more like a shop window dummy rather than cutting-edge.

It's unclear if Gordon really hasn't thought through that - if she's on her way to have her photo taken outdoors - she might also have something on to keep her warm on the way and that to criticise a paparazzi snap of someone on their way to have a proper photo taken is a bit like going on the Coronation Street set and complaining that Sally Webster's house only has three walls.

On the front of Bizarre's website this morning, there's an eye-catching headline:
Lapdances, LiLo and me - By Lily Allen

No, it's not the oh-so-90s attempt to suggest that exploiting other women is somehow titillating and empowering, it's that "by Lily Allen" byline. Has she written a first-person story for Gordon, then?

The story - when you can get past Gordon's vibrating prose - turns out to be just another interview:
LILY ALLEN has been sounding off about how much she likes naked lapdances and LINDSAY LOHAN.

She likes nothing better than spending the night ogling scantily clad young women in stripclubs.

I have to admit that she is starting to sound like the perfect woman to me.

What, Gordon, because if she was you girlfriend she'd be able to find ways to keep herself entertained?
The singer, enjoying her fourth week at the top of the singles chart with The Fear, said: “I signed my publishing deal at Stringfellows and had a private dance. One of the naked ones.

“And I went to Spearmint Rhino the other day — for six hours. I’ve had lapdances there. It’s fun. I like having a chat with the strippers.”

Last month she also confessed that she once “snogged lesbian twins on a couch in San Diego”.

The really puzzling thing, though, is that this is the second day running Gordon's Bizarre pages have run this story. Yesterday it did the same story, at greater length, and remembering to credit Q from which it was all lifted:
“I went to Spearmint Rhino the other day actually, for six hours. I’ve had lap dances there. It’s fun. I like having a chat with the strippers.”

The singer insists she’s not gay despite another recent confession that she “snogged lesbian twins on a couch in San Diego”.

Gordon's got form for filling his pages with little more than stuff he's read in other places, but this is the first time he's recycled one of his own stories the next day.

Oh, there is one difference, though, between the two stories. You know Gordon's opening claims that Lily "likes nothing better" than going for lapdances?

This is from yesterday's longer story:
She said: “I signed my publishing deal at Stringfellows and had a private dance.

“One of the naked ones. It was really embarrassing. It’s quite awkward if you’re not attracted to women, and I’m not."

So not quite the enthusiastic embrace that Gordon was suggesting and certainly more complex than the selective editing in today's article implies. Is this the first time someone has misrepresented a story their own column had printed the day before?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sarkozy pinches MGMT tracks

Nicolas Sarkozy has been keen to take a pro-music business line on filesharing, with the Three Strikes law being implemented in France and dim views taken on copyright material being used without strict permissions in place.

Which makes it a ll a little, uh, awkward that his Union pour un Mouvement Populaire party has been using MGMT's Kids in its rallies and adverts without permission.

(There can't, surely, have been many bands to soundtrack both a Skins finale and a right-wing attempt for re-election?)

[UMP Secretary General Xavier]Bertrand was quick to respond, promising that MGMT will be paid. "The UMP is very respectful of copyright," he said in a statement. "Compensation has to be expected ... and we are presently looking at whether the band was fairly compensated." Bertrand said the use of the song at meetings was arranged with SACEM, a French rights agency, and the band ought to receive payments through that body.

Aha! This is an interesting clarification - it's fine so long as you intend to pay at some point in the future. It doesn't, however, answer the more pressing matter of implying an endorsement from an act who hasn't endorsed you?

Alan Sugar sues

That story which the Sun ran claiming there was a terror hitlist targeting Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson? It's now heading for court: Alan Sugar, who was also on the list, is suing the paper claiming it threatened his security. If it's proven in court that a journalist posted the original threat in a bid to generate a story, he could have a pretty strong case.

Spotify now officially mainstream

Neil McCormick - Bono's close personal friend - has now introduced it to the readers of the Daily Telegraph:

On Spotify it took me seven seconds and three mouse clicks to dial up I Was A Teenage Werewolf (I know because I just timed it). And if that is not to your taste, you can listen to the new U2 album, in its entirety, as often as you want, a week before it is even released.

Although - as Neil doesn't mention for some reason - that's in assocation with The Guardian.

Lemmy unhappy with missing cock

Motorhead have licensed an official Lemmy collectible figure (that's what doll buyers in denial call them). Lemmy, though, isn't happy:

"I said to the guy who made them, 'Are you gonna put a dick on it?'" Lemmy tells Hustler. "He said, 'No.' I said, 'Then it's not going to get very much action, is it? Not very lifelike.'"

It's a dolly, Lemmy. They generally don't get "very much action" at the best of times. Not because of the lack of genitals, but because of their severe social problems.

Madonna's second-hand clothes

That strange Portfolio Capital company, which hopes to do for pop star tat what wine auctions did for fine wine, have got their hands on a load of old Madonna outfits which are now up for auction.

Many of the dresses are from the unwatchable film version of Evita she made, which means you could dress up pretending to be Madonna pretending to be Eva Peron. Which would at least be better than going as a Roman in a toga to the 279th fancy dress party in a row.

Faith some more

In the same way there are websites where you can punch in a celebrity name and find out if they're alive or dead, there's got to be an opening for bands - split, ongoing or reunited?

If you're going to spend the evening coding such a site up, you can add Faith No More into the reunions column.

Lil Bow Wow wades in on domestic violence

Lil Bow Wow is keen that people don't suddenly turn the horrible stories about Rihanna and Chris Brown into some sort of sideshow:

"I've been in a high profile relationship before and I know how it feels when everybody's in your business," he said. "It just puts more pressure. And the only way they're going to get over the situation is just to let them deal with it. And that's what I really want to do. I'm praying for them both.

"At the end of the day," he continued, "I've always believed in whatever happens with people's business ... my mom always told me don't get into [it]. And the situation is so major I think they just need their space and I think they need to deal with it."

Well, that's a wise and mature attitude, Mr. Wow. It might have been even more impressive had you not shared these thoughts with the US imprint of OK magazine.

After having had a bit of a rake over the situation:
"Just shocking," Bow Wow reportedly told the magazine. "I mean, we heard what happened but we really didn't get a visual for it. But I mean, hey, man. The picture speaks for itself."

The rapper, promoting his latest album, New Jack City II, said that when he first heard about the alleged incident, he was skeptical. "I mean, being in the business, the first thing is, 'Ah, it's false, another rumor, bloggers just wanting to have traffic to their site,' " he said. "But when the story was unfolding, it was kind of shocking to all. Chris is a good friend of mine. We've had the opportunity to tour together. And then Rihanna, she's just a beautiful person. Period. Never done no wrong to nobody."

Now, to be fair to Wow, it's MTV who have added the line "promoting his new album" in the middle of a paragraph where he's talking about a victim of an apparent domestic violence assault, but it does seem a little rich for a man who is out discoursing on his friends' troubles while promoting his record to take the moral high ground over bloggers seeking traffic for their site.

And that's by the by anyway: What the hell does he mean "we really didn't get a visual for it"? Is he suggesting that nobody should believe a woman has been beaten up unless they're paraded through the streets to satisfy our curiosity?

Dance for Beyonce

You just know the Beyonce competition, in which she's seeking videos of dancers recreating her Single Girls routine, is not really looking for the best. It's about people licking their lips at Sony waiting for the inevitable "exuberant tranny" entrant whose video they will, they'll tell themselves, be laughed with rather than at.

Music Ally point out the really odd aspect:

However, the contest is strangely old-skool in the manner of entries - they’re asking for submissions on DVD-ROM discs, rather than uploaded to YouTube or any other site.

Well, with a big prize like a whole $2,500 at stake, you wouldn't want any old third party being involved, would you?

Downloadable: Vampire Weekend vs Miike Snow

Pause awhile as you toss your pancakes, friends, and download a free copy of The Kids Don't Stand A Chance, featuring Vampire Weekend getting a Miike Snow going over.

Oh yes: free. Thanks, RCRD LBL.

Gordon in the morning: How marketing works

There's not much evidence of Gordon in Gordon's pages today as the Oscars coverage turns up - instead, there's way, way too much about Elton John's party, including plans to honour Kate Beckinsale with a Pot Noodle. Apparently she said she'd like one during the party. Slim, perhaps, but enough for marketing guys to swing into action:

Pot Noodle Flavour Development Manager, Grahame Walker, said: “We’re always on the look out for ideas for new flavours so when Miss Beckinsale announced her love for Pot Noodles we just had to make one in her honour.

“Steak & BeckinsALE is just like Kate – classically British and a tasty little number.”

Yes, The Sun is reduced to interviewing the bloke who makes up Pot Noodle as part of its Oscars coverage.

Eircom offers to block on a phone call

The craven nature of Eircom is surprisingly deep - not only has it happily signed up to the music industry's demands that alleged file sharers must be kicked off the internet, but it's announced it;ll block access to sites on the music industry's say-so:

Irma, which represents major music groups EMI, Sony-BMG, Warner and Universal, is to begin compiling lists of websites that it claims are damaging its business. It will then apply for a court order, requiring Eircom and other internet providers to block access to these sites.

Under the terms of an agreement between Eircom and Irma, Eircom will not oppose any court application, meaning that the orders will be automatically granted. A spokesman for Eircom confirmed that Eircom ‘‘will not oppose any application [Irma] may make seeking the blocking of access from their network’’ to blacklisted websites.

IRMA is going to start by having The Pirate Bay blocked; it's not clear if anywhere else in the world access to web sites hangs on the say-so of private companies without the need for any sort of judicial oversight whatsoever.

It's not clear what Eircom will do if one of its many, many fine competitors do oppose an application, and the courts reject it.

[Thanks to Karl T]

Monday, February 23, 2009

NME scatters music throughout

Rumour tells that in the late 1970s, efforts were made at Sounds to develop a scratch and sniff offering for their magazine: you see a band's name, you scratch, and you could instantly inhale the perfume of that band. It never saw the light of day - the technology was fautless, but somebody then realised what the sort of band Sounds wrote about actually smelled like.

Now, though, in 2009, NME is trying something similar - not with smell, but with music. And not in the magazine, but online: Every time a band name appears on the site, you can click on it and We7 will stream the sound of that band through to your ears.

It's one of those so-obvious-it's-not-clear-why-it's-taken-til-now ideas; obviously the hope is that a few people will go from going 'what do Pigsy And The Snout sound like?', through 'oh, that's what they sound like', to 'here, have some money, Pigsy, with a portion raked off to the NME.'

It's further evidence that most of the inspired thinking is going on NME's online proposition than trying to prop up the print edition right now - but there is the dangling question of what the NME online stands for if it continues to move away from being an online manifestation of a venerable magazine.

No wonder Iggy got a response so quickly

Iggy Pop's status-draining Swift car insurance advert isn't only undignified; it turns out to be a bit of a fib: Swift won't insure musicians:

Tim Soong, the 30-year-old bass guitarist in Roguetune, found that "entertainers" are excluded from cover.

Soong, of Kennington, phoned the Guildford-based company, which is part of the Axa insurance group, and said: "The customer services operator told me that they don't insure musicians. When I mentioned Iggy Pop, she said his case was different because he is American.

"I'm reporting Swiftcover to the Advertising Standards Authority."

Aha. He's an American. That would be different, then.

INXS deny dumping fortune

Last week, JD Fortune, who had won the job of being the disappointing singer in the pointless continuing INXS, was back living in a car and complaining that he'd been ill-served by the band.

The band, though deny they treated him badly:

INXS creative director and global business strategist Chris Murphy says, "Not only ...

Woah, woah... hold on there. The "creative director and global business strategist" of INXS? God, don't you live in fear of a concept album where he gets a side to himself.

So, what did the 'effectively, selling music is no different to selling squeezy cheese or tyres' guy say, then?
INXS creative director and global business strategist Chris Murphy says, "Not only are we shocked by the claims, even the place the supposed incident was to have taken place is a mystery to the band.

"What annoys me the most after viewing Fortune's interview is the bloody slant he makes toward the founding band members. These guys are the nicest people on this planet, they are not the people he portrays.

"The band have always stated to me that Fortune's services could potentially be contracted again when INXS next tour. In fact he was next on my list to call regarding a very big recording project I am putting together for INXS at present. I guess I have no reason to call him now."

Right next on the list. No, seriously, look at this post-it note: I'd ticked off 'collect laundry', I'd ticked off 'send email to Kylie's people asking if she'd like a go on one of the other guys'; that only left 'call JD with super secret recording mission offer' and 'stairlift copmany - sponsors?' outstanding on the to-do list. Genuinely. Next on the list.

Semi-professional touting

The Concert Promoters Association are anti-touts. They don't think you should be able to sell on tickets you've come into legitimately. And the wanted the government to crack down and stop people making money out of flogging tickets on.

The government said no, so the CPA have suddenly decided they're going to make money from flogging tickets on.

They've launched a website which will allow purchase of second-hand tickets with a degree of confidence. It's called, and if you want to sell a ticket, you'll be called upon to provide enough details to allow the concert promoter to say "that's fine". And, if things do go wrong, the CPA have some vague promise about recompense:

In the event that a buyer is let down by a seller, the CPA says attempts will be made to get the fan into the gig anyway or offer a 100 per cent refund.

And you can see what makes it attractive to the CPA - offering a safe, guaranteed space for ticket resale will presumably make it harder for the bad guys to thrive. A site with guarantees - what possible disincentive could there be for honest chaps to sell their tickets through it, making it clear that any other sites offering tickets must be slightly dodgy?
The new website, called, will operate "at cost" rather than "for profit" and will charge a 12.5 per cent booking fee to the buyer - whilst it's free for the seller.

Ah, a massive mark-up. "If you want to sell your tickets here, they'll appear to be massively inflated compared with other sites." That's quite a pitch.

How, incidentally, have the CPA come up with this hefty mark-up as being "at cost"? And how can a percentage amount dumped on top of the ticket be costs-based? Surely the cost of processing a £10 ticket is the same as the cost of processing a £100 ticket? Or does the extra key stroke really put that much strain on the system?

Presumably an element of this money must be getting earmarked to provide refunds - but that seems morally questionable, in the sense that the money is coming explicitly from the purchaser and not the seller: in effect, it's forcing customers to insure the guarantee that CPA is providing. And not costing the seller a bean, despite the seller being the weak link in the chain.

Not quite sure how the CPA plans to make this sort-of-legitimate system work with photo ids and mobile phone tickets and all the other paraphernalia of proposals floating about.

Or, indeed, how the CPA can continue to offer a resale service while printing "not transferable" on gig tickets - isn't that a little like the US government selling peanuts and cocktail napkins during prohibition.

The Boss on the farm

So, that's who's this year's super-secret-surprise for Glastonbury: It's Jay-Z again.

Alright, it's not.

In one of those about-faces we've come to expect from Worthy Farm, last year's plan of bringing in younger, edgier acts to attract back the teenagers has been abandoned as this year Bruce Springsteen is headlining Saturday.

The Eavises, though, are excited:

"He's one of the all-time rock legends and I'm confident that this will be one of our best shows ever," festival founder Michael Eavis said.

... and even if it isn't, we'll still issue releases saying that it was.
Co-organiser Emily Eavis said: "I'm knocked out that we've managed to get Bruce to play. It's the icing on the cake of this year's bill, which I'm sure will take everyone's breath away when we announce the full details."

" might put the cat amongst the pigeons, but we thought you only live once, and as this is the first day of the rest of our lives, we ran the idea up the flagpole..."

The world is now waiting to see if Noel Gallagher will approve or disapprove.

This bike is still not a pipe bomb

Two years after the first airport shutdown because of a bicycle with a This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb sticker on it, it's happened again:

"I was at work and just kind of freaked out," TBIAPB lead singer/guitarist Ryan Modee told the Pensacola News Journal on Thursday of his reaction to hearing about the incident. "I was like, 'Oh, God, not again. How could this be happening?'"

Modee is urging fans to remove stickers from items at airports and other high security areas to avoid such problems, and says the band will replace them afterward.

Perhaps there should be a warning sign - say, two miles from the airport boundary: "remove your This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb stickers now."

Of course, given that Memphis Airport was shut down by the sticker, you wonder if terrorists might not be more effective at disrupting infrastructure by forming punk bands called things like "Watch Out - This Innocent Looking Laptop Case Is Actually A Dirty Bomb" or "Yes, If I Was Attempting A Terrorist Outrage I Would Wear A Badge Saying Death To The West Like This One I Am Wearing Now" and wait for word of mouth to do the rest.

Gordon in the morning: Before the Oscars hit

Obviously, overnight, Bizarre has been remade to mark Chariots Of Fire II - so it's probably not fair to hold Gordon responsible for this headline:

Slumdog and Kate Win-a-lot

How better to celebrate a great night at the Oscars than by comparing Kate Winslet to a big box of dog biscuit?

In the print edition of The Sun, Gordon is leading with a Robbie Williams story:
AS a super-rich pop star, you would expect ROBBIE WILLIAMS to indulge his passion for poker at the world’s most luxurious gambling resorts.

He could go “all in” at Monte Carlo or Vegas — but instead he is choosing to hit the tables in not-so-glamorous Swindon.

Really? There must be something amazing that Swindon casino - unless it's something like the one closest to the place where he's living. Then the story would be like "man chooses supermarket near his house" or "local pizza parlour delivers pizza", wouldn't it, Gordon?

So, what's so special about the Swindon casino?
But The Robster — during breaks from gazing up at the sky searching for flying saucers — has become a regular at the club’s poker nights close to his multi-million pound Wiltshire mansion.

Elsewhere in Bizarre, Gordon continues his stalkery-like detailing of every outfit Lady GaGa has ever worn:
The US singer, real name STEFANI GERMANOTTA, took her quest for global domination to Germany at the weekend – and sported some seriously kinky leather.

"...then, she wore a Mr Men tshirt to bed, and in the morning cleaned the room wearing a blue shirt and what looked like a basic M&S skirt. But I fell out the tree before I could check that."

The "and I've found out her real name" detail doesn't make any less the stalkery, does it?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Absolute: Somehow, it's not payola

Absolute radio has been following up its playing of the new U2 single with ten second "blipvert" suggesting you buy the track from iTunes.

So. That's a piece of editorial - playing the U2 single. And a piece of advertising - "buy the U2 single".

Isn't that, at best, a little grubby?

“We had to get approval from Ofcom because we are in uncharted territory,” says Absolute Radio chief operating officer, Clive Dickens. “The song was already in the highest rotation it could have on Absolute Radio - 27 to 30 times a week - so they were confident any commercial relationship between us and [U2’s record label] Universal was not influencing the number of times we play it.

“And they wanted to be confident that the consumer would know when they were being advertised to. We felt we came up with a creative that made it clear this was an advert. U2 typically don’t market their stuff on the radio, and we sold it at a significant premium over normal spot advertising.”

Obviously, with Absolute having so few listeners, it's hard to see imagine that too much undue influence is being thrown about, but it's still the principle, isn't it?

Yes, Absolute is the sort of the station which would unthinkingly wedge its schedule with squillions of plays of the U2 song. But does that really suddenly mean that slapping an advert on each time isn't chasing a bit of money? And while U2 might always be on Absolute anyway, what if another band came along who might not normally get those thirty plays a week, but whose label might be interested in investing? With this precedent, would there not be a temptation to, for example, ramp up the plays for tracks from the new Genesis Snog Exodus album a couple of weeks prior to release? So that when the record hits the charts, data can be presented to Ofcom showing how the station has been playing Genesis Snog Exodus loads anyway, so why not not take a few quid for every play?

Absolute might be confident that listeners know what they're hearing is an ad, and not editorial. But it all reminds me of those Laser 558 "spins" which the station would admit afterwards were "pay-ed ad-vert-ise-ments".

Downloadable: Record Store Day gives away Black Lips

You might think, if you swallow the music industry's standpoint whole, that giving away a free download is a counter-intuitive way of promoting a day designed to show much love for record shops.

Luckily, the organisers of this year's Record Store Day (April 18th this year) have no such over-simplistic qualms, and are promoting themselves, and the new Black Lips record, with a free download.

Shiny new band: Urgent Talk

This morning, I've been enjoying Urgent Talk, who are from Sheffield. There's three of them, and they tie up electronics in strings.

This is them:

You can allow yourself to be seduced sideways at their official site. Or out their MySpace.

Last FM deny giving data to the RIAA; TechCrunch try a 'you sort of do' defence

CBS's LastFM outpost are hopping mad over a story that TechCrunch ran on Friday, claiming that they'd given the RIAA details of anyone whose scrobbling included unreleased tracks.

Let's just think about that for a moment: why would that information be of any real use to the RIAA? Just because a track is unreleased, it doesn't automatically follow that someone listening to it is doing so illegally: there are legitimate reasons for having an album before it is on sale to the general public. And Last FM have users around the globe, but mostly not in the US, so it seems that the figures would be of less use to the RIAA than, say, the BPI or IFPI. And the RIAA have, belatedly, announced plans not to embark on any more lawsuits against individuals.

However, that the figures would be virtually meaningless and useless doesn't ultimately preclude the music industry seeking them - it's not like the RIAA doesn't enjoy sending itself off on fools' errands.

The TechCrunch story, though, is based on a single, unnamed source, who "heard" it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another that you'd been messing around. Sorry, had heard it from a friend at CBS. Which is a bit of a weak chain upon which to base such a serious claim.

Last FM and CBS are furious:

Another rejection from systems architect Russ Garrett on Last’s forum: “I’d like to issue a full and categorical denial of this. We’ve never had any request for such data by anyone, and if we did we wouldn’t consent to it. Of course we work with the major labels and provide them with broad statistics, as we would with any other label, but we’d never personally identify our users to a third party - that goes against everything we stand for. As far as I’m concerned Techcrunch have made this whole story up.”

As a result of the story, people have been scrambling to stop their scrobbling:
London developer, Jonty Wareing posted on TechCrunch: “What annoys me is that people are deleting accounts and losing their entire scrobbling history based on shoddy journalism. This hurts those people who have spent years carefully collecting their data far more than as a whole. We have now stopped the job that removes users marked for deletion, so if you did delete your account in haste and want your scrobbles back, please contact our support team.”

While you can understand Last FM rushing to back-up data in case people are deleting in a funk and want to come back when they realise it's been a lot of silly fuss over nothing, is it entirely ethical to receive a request to delete an account, chuckle that they probably don't mean it, and store the data instead? Isn't this like lovers of poets who are supposed to burn diaries when the poet dies, but flog them to Faber and Faber instead?

Especially since the deletions might not be people going "shit, Last FM are telling people about my illegally downloaded copy of Horse With No Name". It might be that the story has reminded them (or made them aware) of exactly what it means having a system set up so that every time you play a song, the entire internet is made aware of it. They might be deleting not because they believe CBS is handing over data now, but because they don't want to be leaving muddy footprints just in case.

Should Last FM really be deciding their users don't really know their own minds?

Back at TechCrunch, Erick Schonfeld is trying to shore up a story that's fallen apart:
Soon after I posted, however, plenty of unofficial but heartfelt denial came from staffers in London, two of which I linked to last night in the update above. The one from Russ Garrett, in particular, raised even more questions. His denial starts out unequivocal, but then he adds a squishy disclaimer:

I’d like to issue a full and categorical denial of this. We’ve never had any request for such data by anyone, and if we did we wouldn’t consent to it.

Of course we work with the major labels and provide them with broad statistics, as we would with any other label, but we’d never personally identify our users to a third party - that goes against everything we stand for.

Hmm, so could the RIAA or a record label use the data to identify people? I never suggested that it was that was singling out individuals listening to unreleased tracks. The issue is whether the RIAA or any of its member companies are trying to do so and whether or not is helping them.

As Garrett points out, shares aggregate listening data with the labels. Are there any unique identifiers associated with this data that could lead back to an individual, despite any precautions might take? (It wouldn’t be unprecedented—remember that leaked AOL search data a few years ago?) I sent Garrett an email about 5 hours ago asking him some of these questions.

From the very beginning, I’ve presented this story for what it is: a rumor. Despite my attempts to corroborate it and the subsequent detail I’ve been able to gather, I still don’t have enough information to determine whether it is absolutely true. But I still don’t have enough information to determine that it is absolutely false either. What I do have are a lot of unanswered questions about how exactly shares user data with the record industry.

Now, there's some interesting meat in his defence, but most of this just soy-shapes. Posting a story which says "Last FM are handing individual's data over to the RIAA" and then attempting to justify it by saying "ah, but they share their listening stats with record labels" (which, given they pay them money for plays of tracks is hardly a revelation anyway) is an attempt at misdirection rather than justification.

Woot-ton: No names, no pack drill

Dan Wootton - Gordon Smart portrayed by Harry Enfield - knows that when stars get big, you don't need their surname anymore. In fact, he's gone one better and dispensed with first names, too on the front page of his blog:

Hell-alujah February 22
BRITAIN’S brightest star is living in fear after her ex-boyfriend burst into her flat in the early hours of the morning.

The petrified Hallelujah babe was forced to call the police as crazed Russell Brooks banged on her door and screamed at her.

Brooks somehow managed to storm past security and into the £500,000 building in north London.

Read On | Comment

I wonder if Alexandra Burke gave her name to police, or just said "this is the Hallelujah babe at number 233, Cowell House..."?

Oh, and Wootton's also running the Rihanna battering pictures. Classy.

This week just gone

The most popular stories published this month, so far, have been:

1. Liveblog: The Brits
2. Liveblog: Morrissey on The One Show
3. RIP: Dewey Martin of Buffalo Springfield
4. RIP: Steve Dullaghan of The Primitives
5. RIP: Kelly Groucutt of ELO
6. RIP: Phil Easton of Radio City
7. RIP: Lux Interior
8. Bloctober: Bloc Party plot tour
9. QTrax has yet another launch
10. LBC tries to smother Ben Goldacre's critique of Jeni Barnett's dangerous radio programme

These releases were worth a trip to Zavvia local record shop

Aidan Moffat & The Best Ofs - How To Get To Heaven From Scotland

M Ward - Hold Time

download Hold Time

Beirut - March Of The Zapotec / Holland

download March Of The Zapotec

The Priscillas - 10,000 Volts

download 10,000 Volts

Crucified Barbara - Til Death Do Us Party

Various - Heroes Volume One

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Franz Ferdinand, Peaches... charity compilation

download Heroes

Various - Dark Was The Night

Feist, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors... charity compilation

download Dark Was The Night

Morrissey - Years Of Refusal

download a 1989 Mat Snow interview with Morrissey

The Monochrome Set - The Lost Weekend

Download The Monochrome Set back catalogue

Visage - Beat Boy

download The Best Of Visage