Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ultra Unbloced

Bloc Party have pulled out of the Ultra Music festival in Florida; Kele's unwell. Viral pharyngitis, if you want to spend some time with WebMD.

Take That and Robbie: So long as its for the right reasons

The Daily Telegraph suggests there are compelling reasons for Take That to make themselves rubbish by bringing Robbie Williams back on board: tonnes and tonnes of cash:

Each member of the pop group Take That would be richer if singer Robbie Williams rejoins the band, according to music industry experts.

What music industry experts could be so cold as to reduce the plans to screw the quiet That dynamic by folding in Megaphone Lookatme trousers? Is anyone so deeply obsessed with money they can't see that 'ah, but you'll make a few more kid' wouldn't outweigh turning a well-liked and fairly humble group into a singing Tescos? What stripe of 'expert' could be so heartless?
PRS for Music, the industry's royalty collection organisation, has indicated that the move could be lucrative for the entire band."

Ah. PRS. That makes sense, then.

Incidentally, given that in their struggle with Google te PRS makes much of how they're non-profit and only take ten per cent of cash from their members in order to act in their interests, could someone explain how issuing asinine press releases about this sort of thing is supposed to be of any practical use to their members? Because from where I'm sitting, it looks a lot like spending songwriter's royalties on bolstering the corporate image of the PRS.

Gordon in the morning: Even a "look, it's a belly" punchline can't cheer him up

This morning, Gordon is worried about a mate. Or, rather, someone who he has had his photo taken with, but that's kind of a mate, isn't it? In fact, being in photos with people is better than being real mates as you don't have to worry about what to get them for Christmas or anything, while you can still show people pictures of you with them and everyone will assume you're tight with them.

Anyway, Gordon's worried about James Corden, on account of how the clouds are starting to gather:

IF Family Fortunes asked 100 people to name a popular, chipper, chubby comedian, JAMES CORDEN would be the top answer.

But the big lad from Gavin & Stacey has recently been far from the bubbly Smithy the nation has grown to love.

Big Jim hit rock bottom last week after taking to heart brutal criticism of his new TV comedy sketch show Horne & Corden.

If the nation has grown to love him, how does that square with him being criticised into feeling miserable? I know the United Kingdom can be a complicated place to track emotion - you never find out that you were a national treasure until you get bad news from the doctor - but that sounds awkwardly complicated even for us.

Gordon knows James is down because a mate told him. The sort of mate who runs to the papers to let them know that you're having a bad day. That sort of mate:
A mate said: “James is having a real crisis of confidence at the moment. He has been worried that the honeymoon period has come to an end.

“It’s the first time since everything kicked off for him that the non-stop good times have really turned bad.

“He has been depressed because he feels it has all been a bit personal."

Well, yes, the criticism has been a bit personal, what with the writing-and-starring-in-a-comedy-show-named-after-you nature of the work.

Gordon then goes on to churn through the setbacks that Horne's had recently - although neglects to mention "nation screaming 'don't you bloody dare' when the idea of launching a band was floated" - before offering some sparks of comfort:
Lesbian Vampire Killers, James’s recently released flick with Mat, has bagged £1million in its first week.

Although, of course, the reviews for it made the mauling Horne & Corden got look like a Chinese Burn. And it seems to be trailing behind Mall Cop right now. It's hard to imagine James Corden is going to cheer up thinking that people would rather watch a man called Blart than his movie.
As I revealed a couple of months ago, James has also landed a leading role in the Hollywood remake of Gulliver’s Travels.

Although the IMDB has yet to add him in to their cast list. And since he's not Gulliver, or Gulliver's wife, it's not entirely clear quite how leading he was.
James and Mat got through hosting this year’s Brits unscathed — where bigger names have come tumbling down.

Yes, James: hold on to the smattering of polite applause.
On top of that, Gavin & Stacey has been commissioned for a third series, with a Christmas special to boot.

Yes... stick with the sitcom. The public like the sitcom. You've got a sitcom.

And Gordon points out that James isn't entirely alone:
In her absence a man who is no stranger to controversy and the occasional bad review has been offering his new chum some support through the bad times — JONATHAN ROSS.

Rossy. Rossy will help you through.

Jonathan Ross cheering up a guy stuck in a sitcom, wishing he could be thought of as more than just a punchline, being accused of spreading himself too thinly, getting a critical mauling. Why does that sound so familiar?

Also today, Gordon has the scoop on where Michael Jackson will be staying during his three year residency in Camden:
THRILLER star MICHAEL JACKSON will stay next to HAUNTED CAVES during his 50-concert stint in London this summer.

Jacko, 50, has paid £1million to rent a 28-bedroom Kent mansion on the edge of an ancient 22-mile maze of spooky passageways.

Let's hope there's a spooky passageway linking Kent to Essex, as it's only a couple of weeks since Gordon claimed Jackson was renting Rod Stewart's mansion to stay in.

Westwood: Breaking waffle news

Hold the, erm, waffle iron: Westwood's had second thoughts:

Shit - recipe's to complicated - I'm gonna get Aunt Jamima waffle mix

The dream is over.

Saturday Kitchen with Tim Westwood

You know, there are those people who say that Twitter is little more than a gathering of the barely literate. Others say its a service for those obsessed with telling the world what they had for breakfast. Still more Twitterniks point to the blowhards who can't half-form an opinion without seeking an audience for it.

It might be a good idea to keep them away from TimWestwood as he seems to be combining all three complaints in one deft sequence:

I'm an expert on hotel breakfasts - this one's shaping up to be an average. I'll be able able to call it when the porridge gets here
30 minutes ago from TwitterBerry

Its a 5 outta 10 - but if they don't hurry my porridge I'll miss me train!
22 minutes ago from TwitterBerry

Newcastle Malmassion sets the standard for breakfast - they were more legendary back in the day
21 minutes ago from TwitterBerry

Porridge's a bust & the waffles burnt. Crown Plaza Chester slips down in the ratings
19 minutes ago from TwitterBerry

Shit tasted right - spoke to the chef - its a generous 7 outta 10
15 minutes ago from TwitterBerry

Waffles were bangin - cook gave me the recipe & I'm buyin the same waffle iron. Chester Crown Plaze big in the breakfast ratings
1 minute ago from TwitterBerry

The most worrying one is the penultimate one... did he order that from the menu or was the chef merely reacting to having his porridge cricitised on the internet?

And why does Westwood want to buy a waffle iron and use a recipe which resulted in burnt waffles?

Beaker half-full: Universal attempt a British Miley Cyrus

Here's one fresh from the flipchart at a company brainstorm: Universal Records have decided that what the UK needs is a British Miley Cyrus, and have set about making it so:

Tracey Beaker star Dani Harmer is set to battle it out in the charts with the likes of Alexandra Burke and Lily Allen by launching a career as a pop star!

The CBBC actress has signed a record deal worth up to £3 million with the Universal/Decca music label.

Burke has had a busy week - she's also taken on the job of playing a grown-up Tracy Beaker in a series which follows the character from Sainsburys' kids stationery range after she leaves care. It's going to be on CBBC, so presumably Beaker won't slide in to the crime-drugs-prison spiral that bedevils a lot of people as they leave the care system and struggle with minimal support.

And expectations for the series are high. How high? Well, the Newcastle Journal seems to be expecting miracles:
How Tracy Beaker will save region

That makes it sound unlikely that Beaker will end up working the streets to support a crack habit, although I'd love to see next year's Sainsburys pencil cases if she did.

Who said "Tucker's Luck"? That kind of unconstructive use of lessons from history isn't helpful, you know. There's every chance that people who are adult will really want to spend time watching a character they liked as a child, and wouldn't view going back to Tracy Beaker like they were being asked to do finger painting at a business meeting; while the kids who identify with the child Tracy Beaker can't wait to watch a programme about trying to make sense of the Job Centre Plus and housing benefit forms.

Somehow, amongst all this, Harmer is going to try and build a pop career that justifies an alleged three million quid investment.

Just one thing, though: isn't she a little old to be the British Miley Cyrus?

[Thanks to @jonnybull for the tip]

Friday, March 27, 2009

Courtney Love: Life, sadly, outpaces our ability to make up stuff

Before heading out for a spot of tea, I made a joke about how Courtney Love's blogging was probably a good argument for musicians to have Twitter ghostwriters.

If I'd waited, I'd actually have had a better punchline, provided by Courtney Love. Having been left alone to do her own Twittering, she's managed to get herself in hot legal trouble:

Fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir, aka Boudoir Queen, is suing Love for libel and breach of contract. Simorangkir claims that Love never paid her for work she had completed, and accuses her of making "menacing and disturbing" statements about her online.

The suit alleges that Love called the designer several names on her Twitter and MySpace pages, including a "nasty lying hosebag thief", and accused her of being a drug addict and a prostitute, reports the Associated Press.

Okay, maybe not a ghost writer. But surely someone could offer to subedit Courtney - and cast an eye over the legals?

The kings of video streaming

For the last couple of weeks, I've been pointing out that comparing radio royalty rates with online video rates - as the PRS tries to do - is wrong-headed and confused. Here, in my inbox appears a document with an expert who seems to back me up:

‘Lots more performances of music are needed online to generate meaningful royalties since each download or stream is individual in comparison to the wider audience numbers achieved by broadcasts on traditional media channels such as radio or TV.'

Exactly. Why can't the PRS see that, eh? Maybe we should try and see if this chap could try to point out to the royalty body that you're only going to get infinitesimal rates per play of a video... let's see, who was this wise man?
Andrew Shaw, Managing Director of Broadcast and Online at PRS for Music

Yes, having spent three weeks bleating that YouTube offer a tiny, tiny amount for each time a video gets played online, and suggesting this makes Google evil, the PRS now issue a press release reminding everyone that, erm, you can only expect a tiny, tiny amount for each time a video gets played online. I'm not sure if that makes the PRS part of the evil Google conspiracy, or simply suggests that - as with most of the RIAA affiliated groups and companies - at least some people understand digital music and its implications.

This is all part of the PRS press release celebrating the most popular online music of 2008. Yes, it really has taken them three months to work this out. Here's the chart:
  13. SO WHAT - PINK

What is the reaction of the PRS to this discovery?
Some of the entries in 2008 exemplify that digital is truly an audio-visual environment where video can drastically boost a track’s popularity.

Eh? While the list might not exactly match the ILR playlists for the 2008, it's hardly as if there's any gems in the list that you might have missed had you relied on radio rather than going on the internet during the year.

There's something else I don't quite understand. The release says this:
PRS for Music analysed 74 million downloads and streams of music on licensed websites and services such as YouTube, iTunes,, Spotify and Bebo, in order to pay royalties accurately to its 60,000 members.

Which is fair enough. But the notes for editors says this:
A typical radio station plays 12,000 pieces of music in a three month period. During the same timeframe, on services like YouTube, PRS for Music will analyse some two billion performances of 14m different videos.

So in 2008, PRS analysed 74 million downloads and streams. But in three months, PRS analyses two billion performances of videos alone - implying eight billion streaming videos in a year. So is it 74 million or eight billion? Shouldn't an agency set up to look after other people's money be better with the numbers?

The ghost of a Tweet

There is, of course, a distinction between having Twitter ghostwriters and paying someone to update your social networking profiles. The former is what 50 Cent does, the latter is Britney Spears' approach.

It's one thing to openly make it clear that it's someone from your team who is sticking up the messages: when you read "Britney is doing something really cool", you're going to know that it's a minion doing the typing.

But what about when the Tweets are constructed to make it seem like they're coming from the person in whose name the account has been established?

For instance, say you're one of the 200,000 people signed up for 50 Cent's feed, and you saw his eloquent March 1 post in which he opined, "My ambition leads me through a tunnel that never ends." Deep, right? But prompted the savvy businessman and beef-addicted rapper to write such a line? Apparently you'd have to ask "Broadway" (a.k.a. Chris Romero), the director of 50's Web empire, who tweeted the thoughtful comment after reading it in an interview.

"He doesn't actually use Twitter," Romero told the paper about his boss. "But the energy of it is all him." The energy, huh?

If you can't manage to come up with 140 characters worth of something to say, you might wonder if you should be doing the job, surely?

After all, what possible argument could there be against a musician actually writing, for themselves, the material through which they connect with their audience?

Oh... hang about, I'm just getting a text... let me just read this... hmmm... let me just try that final paragraph again then:

After all, what possible argument* could there be against a musician actually writing, for themselves, the material through which they connect with their audience?

*Except for Courtney Love on MySpace.

Downloadable: Lisa Hannigan

More aural bounty, as everyone's other favourite Hannigan visits Daytrotter to deliver one of their sumptuous sessions. Five Lisa Hannigan tracks and an interview, all waiting for you and your mouse. And finger. And ears.

Parfitt: Only the odd Pops, while Pop and Ma welcome at One

It's been the day of the Radio Academy radio and music forum, and somewhat impolitely Andy Parfitt turned up and talked about television.

In particular, he focused on the question of if the Christmas and Comic Relief successes of Top Of The Pops suggested there might be life in the corpse yet:

"It has come back in those event-driven moments and that's the way to go," he added.

"It's got a mythical status ... but I don't think we should get hung up on that one programme. We are a long way from [BBC1 controller] Jay Hunt recommissioning Top of the Pops in its old-school form on BBC1."

Andy remembers that Christmas is the most magical event-driven moment of the year, and you can't just have that event-driven moment every week of the year.

Besides, says Andy, you can't have a music programme on television now, because the kids have the mp3s on their iPods:
Parfitt said that younger music consumers expected more interactivity than just broadcasting Top of the Pops once a week, in an age of iPod playlists, online music services and other options open to the BBC audience. "The days are gone when we can make a programme and just put it out there," he added.

Yes, nowadays, programmes have to be scheduled, promoted; audiences have to be nurtured. Back in 1977, it used to be enough for programmes to be taken from the edit suite and dumped in the street - audiences would run out in packs and collect the shows to entertain themselves with on their G-Plan televisions and flared radios.

Isn't the opposite more true now? That an organisation with the BBC's clout and nous could just film five or six bands doing a couple of songs, just stick the files up online and perhaps behind press red, brand the whole thing 'Top Of The Pops' and leave the rest to the audience? Wouldn't that be quite exciting? Couldn't Top of The Pops become the equivalent of an iPod playlist for music TV? You could draw up your own list of favourite records; that could generate a chart in turn which - right down the end of the line - could be assembled to make an old-style rundown programme.

Parfitt did turn his attention to radio, though, to wrestle with the problem of Radio One's aging audience:
Parfitt also today defended Radio 1 against accusations that its audience and roster of presenters are too old, insisting that the station reaches 40% of its target demographic, 15- to 24-year-olds.

"As Radio 1 has grown it has grown its 35-plus audience but it has also grown its teen audience. Its mean audience is 27," he added.

"If I want a way to travel for Radio 1 it would be not older but younger," admitted Parfitt, who is also controller of Radio 1, 1Xtra and multimedia teen content brand BBC Switch.

So... hang about a minute while I try to make my brain catch up. The remit of Radio One is to target 15 to 24 year-olds, two out of three of whom it misses altogether; instead, it hits an average age of 27, already three years older than where it's being pointed - so the boss thinks his ideal plan is to try and attract a larger number of older listeners?

Perhaps Parfitt would have been happier arguing that the obsession with age targets is meaningless once you get past the CBBC age group, but given that part of his remit is pushing BBC Switch, or "Hullo Teenagers... Everywhere" to give it its official title, he's going to find doing that a little tricky.
However, he said that older audiences who grew up with the station have stayed with it because "they want to remain younger longer". "You can't make them go away," Parfitt added.

Actually, Andy, you can make them go away, by changing the line-up of presenters. You might remember Matthew Bannister demonstrated this quite effectively when he had the Radio One studios sprayed for Travis, Bates and Juste.
He insisted that "Radio 1 is a hot young radio station", citing the popularity of the late John Peel as proof that the age of presenters did not mean that they could not appeal to younger audiences.

Bloody hell, after all these years, and Radio 1 controllers are still using John Peel as their get-out of all sorts of awkward situations. A couple of decades ago he would be invoked as proof that the station still cared about new music; now, he's proof that young audiences will listen to older presenters. Well, yes: but only if they trust their taste. Do fifteen year old kids really think that Jo Whiley is more musically acute than their mates' iPods playlists?

Downloadable: La Roux

What are bands doing with all the emails they harvest in return for free music? Are they simply building up a marketing database, or do they sell them on to V1agr/\ salesmen?

Still, some things are worth the risk of a flurry of emails telling you "She hate your tiny man-gizzard -be virile with blue pill". Like, for example, a free digital bundle from LaRoux. Get across to the website, click on the bottom right and before you know it, you'll be taking delivery of a couple of demo tracks.

There's also a live session, which will be appearing on Spotify this afternoon. But - hold on! - only for premium users. The rest of the world will have to wait until next week to be able to hear it. (In passing, looks like Spotify have come up with a new way of persuading people to shell up for an upgrade.)

Imeem squeezed

More trouble at the interface of rights holders and online services: Imeem is struggling to cope with paying royalties at the prices demanded by the people who Abba don't want us to call the intellectual property industry.

There had been rumours that Imeem was about thirty million dollars awry of its obligations, but Imeem deny that figure. It also denies that it's on the point of shutting up shop altogether:

"[TechCrunch's] $30M number is not only wrong, it's preposterous," said Graves. "We don't now owe, nor have we ever owed, that amount of money to the labels. And the shutdown rumor is equally false – we are not shutting down."
Graves said imeem is indeed hoping to renegotiate its label deals.

"I can confirm that we're negotiating with the major labels to restructure our deals," he wrote via e-mail. "This is a good thing. The economy and world have changed, and just as we've renegotiated our bandwidth bills, ad-serving deals, etc. to take into account the new economic realities, it makes sense to do the same with our content deals."

Wired suggests it could be paying as much as a cent per song streaming for some tracks - which, with Imeem serving a billion streams a month, is clearly insane.

Using our adhoc 'how much would it cost to play a song to an audience the size of Chris Moyles', I make that roughly a thousand times more expensive per listener than Radio One's royalty rate.

Doubtless, though, PRS and other rights agencies will be desperately trying to come up with a justification for overcharging a company when it does have the 'well, the parent company makes a lot' argument to deploy.

Pirate Bay goes submarine

Do you suppose the RIAA really ever expect their get-tough-stunts to have the desired effect? Or are they like alcoholics opening another can, pretending that they're going to enjoy it, but knowing that they're just making their misery deeper and longer?

Take the legal action against the Pirate Bay. Not only has it seen IFPI head John Kennedy make a fool of himself in court, but now it has lead to the launch of iPredator. The Pirate Bay team are offering access to a virtual private network for five euros a month, taking torrent swapping further out of the view of the record companies.

What's really going to hurt is the realisation that the Pirate Bay have found a way to make money out of online music while the RIAA companies are still trying to find a business plan.

Embed and Breakfast man: Whipping Boy

Because I'm nothing if not sensitive to the demands of the crowd, here is Whipping Boy's When We Were Young:

Downloadable: The Noisettes

A gift for you from the Noisettes' people: yesterday's cover of The Killers' When We Were Young off the Live Lounge.

If only it had been Whipping Boy's song of the same name, we might all have been in very heaven. But this will do for me...

Duffy has 'ad it

Sadly, Duffy decided to wait until everyone had seen the eye-poking terror of her 'bicycling off to get some Diet Coke with a look of terror on my face' advert. If only she'd decided that doing adverts wasn't really her before, eh?

"I have only got 100 per cent to give and all of that goes towards being creative, so I can't really open the doors to all the other things.

"I have so many desires creatively, but I have to tread carefully that I also don't sell myself out personally.

"What you see with me is what you get. I just put my whole energy into the creative side."

Presumably, the lack of even the most stubborn stain of creativity in that Diet Coke ad means that she didn't feel it would eat into that 100%.

You get a free gift and your Nickelback

If you wanted to give away a free Nickelback video, you'd probably be hard put to find anyone who'd want it. You'd need to find some way of identifying those odd souls who might actually think it delightful. Luckily, though, US phone company Sprint have come up with a foolproof way of finding Nickelback fans. Actually, you wouldn't want foolproof, would you? It'd be like make a butchers carnivore-proof.

What Sprint are going to do is tickle Nickelback fans' mobiles as they arrive at gigs, using wifi and bluetooth to offer the download, and to slap it on if they say yes.

Not quite sure how the bandwidth would cope if everyone said 'yes' at the same time - I have a happy fantasy of Chad Ogre trying to start the gig while the audience are saying "hang on, mate... the download is only 3% completed..."

The technology has been used at Def Leppard gigs, too, but the interesting point is that is could also be used for good purposes.

There's only room for one out-of-control maelstrom on a Britney Spears tour

Two roadies who had been working on the Circus Circus Circus tour with Britney Spears have been axed after getting into a lot of silly bother:

Early Thursday morning, Rockey Lee Dickey Jr. and Alex Montes, two employees of one of the companies contracted to provide equipment for the Circus Starring Britney Spears tour, were picked up by Pittsburgh police for aggravated assault, E! News confirms. Spears is set to perform in the Pennsylvania city Friday evening.

According to a statement from the police, officers saw Dickey, 34, in a physical altercation with a 30-year-old male, reportedly named Matthew Boyle. When they approached, Dickey allegedly swung at the officer and Montes, 23, attempted to intervene, placing another officer in a headlock.

The wrath of Spears' management has also been brought down on the pair's head, although somewhat bizarrely channeled through a statement which appears to come from the non-physical entity of the tour itself:
"Neither of the men involved are employees of the tour or Ms. Spears," read a statement posted on the popster's website blog. "The two individuals have since been dismissed by their employer. The Circus Starring Britney Spears tour does not support or tolerate this type of behavior."

Let's hope Britney takes that as a warning, otherwise the Circus might end up without a ringmaster.

Never mind the Soundgarden reunion, here's Tad

Soundgarden? Back together, you say? Only without Chris Cornell, obviously, you say? Come away, children, there's nothing to see here... unless... who stood in for Cornell?

Tad Doyle?

Seattle Weekly enjoyed itself:

Earlier in the evening, I asked a sort of meatwad security guy if Chris Cornell was in the building...I couldn't help but ask, right? Dude goes (with all seriousness) "Chris Cornell, uh..yeah, that's the guy on stage, right?" Terrible. Anyway, their set was awesome.

Surely the first time anyone has confused Tad with Cornell. Possibly the first time anyone has confused Tad with anything other than a challenge to climbers.

Surely, though, there's nothing more frustrating than having Tad doing Soundgarden stuff when, instead, you could have had Soundgarden doing backing on Tad stuff? Stuff like this:

Gary Kemp: Please don't call it True. Please don't call it True. Please don't call it True.

Unusually for a 'pop star signs up to write autobiography' story, the person signing on this time has actually lived enough of a life to make it worthwhile. Gary Kemp has probably timed his deal with Harper Collins right in terms of generating the largest payday, but I can't help wishing he'd been producing his book before the not-entirely-convincing 'we're a big happy family' Spandau reunion.

Let's hope that cheese anecdote makes the final volume.

And it's not going to be called True, either. That would have been obvious and...

John Elliot, popular culture editor at Fourth Estate, acquired world all-language rights to I Know This Much


Gordon in the morning: Points of view

Pete Doherty has, Gordon discovers, been invited to write a BBC drama pilot. This doesn't please Gordon:

WHEN I give my cash to the BBC every month for a TV licence I expect it to go to responsible people making top telly shows.

But I was disappointed when I heard that Mr PETER DOHERTY, a fine upstanding member of his local community, was meeting BBC bosses on Tuesday for a job interview.

Sadly the grubby rocker is not in line for a job cleaning the wayward splashes off JONATHAN ROSS’s private urinal at London’s Television Centre.

That would be London's Television Centre in the London's busy Wood Lane, of course.

Gordon has a source, of course:
“He’s seen it all as a hellraising rock star, so they want his experiences written in.”

He’s certainly no stranger to tapping into rich veins, but for very different reasons.

Actually, that did make me giggle.
“Pete was meeting creative chiefs. They’ve commissioned him to write a Skins-style show on the dark side of the music industry."

So, Rock Follies On Drugs, then? Or Jimmy Corkhill Goes To The Roundhouse?

Given Doherty's published works to date, would he really be first choice to write something like this? If you really felt that something like this would be worth doing in the first place? Perhaps they should start him off by adding a bit of mystical, mythical Albiony doodling on the edge of the next scripts for Merlin.

Mistaking the Spandau Ballet reunion for something people might be in the least bit interested in, Gordon follows them to the Groucho Club. And, yes, whoever makes up the HTML pages for the Sun really has titled the page:
Spandau Ballet head an A-list guestlist at London's trendy Groucho Club

London's trendy Groucho Club? You'll have to forgive me, I'm from the provinces - is that anywhere near London's Television Centre?

It seems they really will let anyone in to the Groucho these days, as this awkward photo shows:
Spandau tour boss STEVE DAGGER told of the band’s ridiculous riders, which once featured a cheese board...

Not a cheese board. Oh, what larks. That must have really thrown the promoters for a loop - how on earth would they find something crazy like cheese? Unless there was a small grocer's shop nearby, of course.

Gordon frames his meeting with the Spandau boys by constant references to Yuppies, apparently because they came from the 1980s and he's now seen them drinking champagne.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Downloadable: Bob Mould

Yesterday, what with the return of The Apprentice and photos of Girls Aloud in Mark One versions of fetish wear, you might have missed that Spinner's free mp3 of the day was Bob Mould's City Lights. It's still available for free download today, though. Life - full of second chances. Unless you're that woman off the Apprentice with the Pepsi-logo-shaped mouth, that is.

A different shade of Orange

As their response to the government's Digital Britain report, Orange have offered to build a lovely broadband network and, more interestingly, shouted "oi, no" in the face of proposals for a rights agency to police intellectual property online:

[L]ike many ISPs, it stresses that "the real key to combating unlawful file-sharing and copyright infringement online is (a) education and (b) the development and popularisation of legitimate and compelling content distribution business models."

As James P pointed out, this is the same Orange who sends out those terse letters to alleged unlicensed file-sharers at the request of the big record companies.

Indeed, it seems that even this, Orange is now feeling queasy about:
"This proposed solution, which is still strongly advocated by the music industry despite public statements to the contrary, cuts across basic principles of common law, user rights and ISPs' legitimate commercial interests and would fail a straightforward cost-benefit analysis," Orange said.

To be fair to Orange, the ISPA did push back fairly hard on some of the demands from the BPI, even if in the end it accommodated some of the less wild-eyed ones.

And they're clearly not about to take a digital cop scheme without a fight, either:
As for the idea of a rights agency funded by industry, which would be backed by legislation against persistent illegal file-sharers, the company told Carter it "does not think it is appropriate for it to fund a rights agency that would only be to the benefit of the rights-holders. This would ultimately become an 'anti-piracy tax' on all consumers, whether or not they infringe. Orange does not understand why one industry should be asked to fund the protection of another industry's commercial interests."

Unless by sending out warning letters, of course. But that's more about keeping the record industry quiet than policing their rights.

Showbiz Zoe Dean

Showbiz Zoe, who is now merely Pursuing Other Exciting Opportunities Zoe, has had her vacant former position filled. Stepping in, it seems, will be a chap called Dean Piper.

Dean "is currently Entertainment Editor at Closer magazine, and begins his new position in May."

It must be rewarding for Zoe to know that she's going to be so missed by the Mirror that they're rushing to get someone to pick up her work with such almost unseemly haste. Presumably Closer just can't bear to part with him.

[Thanks to Sarah D]

MM STV VN ZNDT unimpressed by PRML SCRM

Steve Van Zandt, off the Sopranos and out the E Street Band, is not a big fan of Bobby Gillespie. He loves Primal Scream, but Bobby Gillespie? Not so much:

"I tried to get Primal Scream to come over to America several times," he said. "I thought their album before this last one was one of the greatest records in 10 years. I begged them to come over. I had a whole tour for them."

"Their agent talked me out of it," he said. "[The agent] said: 'They can't do 20 shows.' I'm like, 'Come on, man. We do 20 shows a month.'"

"Primal Scream could be the biggest band in the world. They are fantastic when they make rock records – once every 10 years. But they can't tour because of drug problems, or whatever. I don't have patience for it. I'm like, all right, you want to be a drug addict, go be a drug addict. Don't waste my time."

Well... the biggest band in the world seems unlikely; and to be frank, they're at their most ropey when they make their rock records - it's the ones in between that really connect.

And as Jim M observes as he alerts me to the story:
If the intention is to galvanise Gillespie & co. to clean up their act & grab what chances remain for them in the States (debatable, I know), I suspect it will have the opposite effect. Better to be a cliched, tiresome wasted rocker, Gillespie may foolishly surmise, than a side kick to Springsteen:

He only takes the drugs to forget the hairstyle on the cover of Sonic Flower Groove, you know.

Camera Obscura: Plans less obscure

April brings not just the joy of bunnies shaped like chocolate and eggs wrapped in foil that represent Jesus in some way, but also a tour from Camera Obscura. And an album, My Maudlin Career. And a single, French Navy. Which sounds like this:

These would be the tour dates:

Tues 21st April - Academy 2, Newcastle

Weds 22nd April - Club Academy, Manchester

Thurs 23rd April - Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Fri 24th April - The Assembly, Leamington Spa

Sat 25th April - The Leadmill, Sheffield

Sun 26th April - Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow

Weds 29th April - The Stiff Kitten, Belfast

Thurs 30th April - Andrew’s Lane Theatre, Dublin

Elton John lets it lie

Elton John has finally given up his legal actions against The Guardian over a joke about him that he believed did him down:

John had accused [Marina] Hyde of defamation and using a "gratuitously offensive, nasty and snide tone" in the piece.

I know, he says that like that's a bad thing.

Anyway, the High Court struck out his libel claim back before Christmas; last week a written seeking of leave to appeal was rejected and his soicitors were given until today to offer new grounds for appeal. They've decided to not bother. It's not known if the phrase "try and have a sense of humour about it" (or, perhaps, "oh, crawl out of your arse, man, it was a joke") was involved in the decision-making process.

Akon attempts to reposition himself as the first choice when Kanye West is unavailable.

Taking a break from throwing people off stages, dry-humping children and giving kids vouchers for sex toys, Akon has decided to exercise his social conscience:

R&B star Akon has launched a song to commemorate the victims of the slave trade, past and present.

He debuted "Blood Into Gold" at the United Nations, New York, on Wednesday - the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery.

He is, of course, on a mission:
"I will do my part to spread the word - a lot of my US friends are not aware of the history [of slavery]," he said.

"[Slavery] is a big situation for us - the younger generation."

But you just said that a lot of your friends are not aware of it? Although quite what "a big situation for us" means isn't entirely clear, so perhaps the not being aware of it is the big situation.

It's actually a bit of a shame - clearly, Akon is quite genuine about his desire to connect with history, but just lacks any insight or the ability to process any thoughts on the subject at all:
"It's very important for me because it was the slaves that opened the door for me personally.

"Seeing how far we've come, I'm honoured to be a part of it and I will do my part to spread that word.

"As people, we should stop using each other for money purposes."

Perhaps you should find someone else's words to spread, Akon.

Actually he has, as, wisely, the organisers didn't put him in charge of the song:
On "Blood Into Gold" he collaborates with Emmy-award winning musician Peter Buffett, who was asked by the non-profit organisation, Culture Project, to write a song for the "Breaking the Silence, Beating the Drum" event.

Akon summed up his thoughts succinctly:
“You know, when you reflect on slavery, and you reflect on modern day, just how we are living together, this could have never happened, years, you know how we remember it. And just to be moving in a forward light in the future to see Mr. Obama becoming the president, and how far we even took to become a unit as people to make a decision of that, you know, magnitude, it’s just incredible.”

That was the best quote that the UN could find for their press release. At the same event was Niles Rodgers:
“I grew up and I didn’t really have a voice, my mother didn’t have a voice, I didn’t have a voice, and today I walk into the General Assembly. I am standing on stage with people who just to me are amazing and I realize that the power of music and the power of art and the power of dance, gives me the ability to communicate a message that is bigger than I could have ever imagined.”

At the same event was Gilberto Gil:
“One of the obligations of the human race is to constantly struggle for harmony, you know, understanding, balance, peace, and so many, many, many words that we can use to define this necessity, this perennial necessity of being together, living together, taking care together of our planet.”

How was it that Akon ended up being pushed in front of the microphone?

Folding paper: Blender liquidated

Maxim US spin-off Blender, which monthly combined Q style music articles with a cover of a female singer in a push-up bra, has closed, after a long illness.

CEO, Stephen Duggan, said in a company memo that the company was closing Blender with great sadness. "Since 2001, Blender has provided unmatched music coverage and entertainment news in its unique voice to a profoundly dedicated audience of music enthusiasts," Mr. Duggan wrote. "We are particularly grateful to the sales team and to the tremendously talented editorial staff for their hard work and commitment to Blender."

The readership was "profoundly dedicated"? To what? To the magazine? Presumably not, because if they were that dedicated, then the magazine would presumably not be closing?

The most worrying dollop in the entrails: Blender had over three quarter of a million subscribers, and yet still wasn't sustainable.

Madonna: she wants a set

Here we go again, then: Madonna is reportedly hoping that Malawi will ignore the rules on overseas adoptions all over again.

Malawi apparently doesn't generally allow adoptions by single parents, but if you're ignoring one set of rules, why bother about ignoring another set?

Celeb magazines suffering like the rest of us

Try and remember there is a human cost - or nearly human cost - as you read predictions that the US celebrity magazine sector might be wiped out by the recession:

This, according to a new report from DeSilva + Phillips, a New York-based media banking firm, released today.

The rise of “feisty online alternatives” and the recession have sped up the decline of some celebrity media franchises, according to the report. But “timid magazine management” is also to blame.

As a result, celebrity magazines “have the most to lose” in terms of audience and revenues—“and they will certainly lose the most in the years ahead.” People, the report notes, is perhaps the only magazine to prove itself as a multi-platform leader—accounting for 24 percent of the category’s print circulation, 28 percent of its ad pages and “an eyebrow-raising” 43 percent of its revenues.

I'm not quite sure that the D+S report quite knows what it's talking about, though:
The report points to the $1 sale of TV Guide, a magazine that once was acquired by Rupert Murdoch for $3 billion, as emblematic of the erosion of print’s value. “How [a] magazine is worth nominally .000000001 percent of what it was 20 years ago is a story for a B-school case study,” D+P managing director Ken Sonenclar, the author of the report, wrote. “But what’s most noteworthy now is that the sale excludes and the TV Guide Network cable channel, which were sold separately in January to Lions Gate Entertainment, the Vancouver-based film company, for $255 million. That’s where the seller realized growth and value.”

Isn't using TV Guide as an exemplar of the entertainment sector a bit dodgy? Given that the main reason for the fall in value of a magazine which has been hit by everyone getting TVs which have guides built in?

And, yes, the two electronic versions of TV Guide sold for millions, but given that even adding that to the dollar for the magazine you're still looking at a loss of two and three quarter billion dollars in the brand's value, it's hard to spot where Murdoch actually realized any growth or value at all.

Still, gloomy outlook for the celeb mags - care to offer a prediction about who might do well, Mr. Sonenclar?
He added: “Long-term winners online will have roots in print, TV and the web—and so will the losers.”

Brilliant. Thank you for helping me through this difficult period with your insight. I'm reading between the lines and assuming this means that celebrity news services who have their roots in riding bicycles up and down the street shouting about Angelina Jolie's breasts have no hope of surviving.

David Cook: leave me alone

You want to be famous. You go on a television show called American Idol, and do quite well - you actually are swept to victory on a wave of public affection.

Are you happy now you're famous beyond your wildest dreams, David Cook?

Is the adulation of the crowd delighting you?

No. No, it turns out not.

"I have to address some behavior that has become disturbing. We pride ourselves on being accessible to you as fans, but in contrast, we do enjoy what little privacy we can muster. To that end, the efforts by some fans to find our hotel rooms, call our hotel rooms, attach things to our bus, etc., is something I have to condemn."

Not "ask you to stop doing". Not "would rather you didn't". He's condemning it.

Obviously, Cook won't have to worry about people trying to find his hotel room for long - indeed, if he keeps up this sort of thing, he'll be easy to find when on tour as he'll be staying in the only Motel6 in town. Should there be anyone left wanting to seek him.

What did you think being a big pop star would be like, David? Did you think people would only be interested for sixty minutes a week? Did you really think that it was like working behind the counter at the butchers?

Of course, had you built your own career up, you might have had a chance to get used to having fans following you; if it all got a bit much you could have decided to stay as a big fish in your local circuit.

You got what you wished for. You got it short-circuited. Stop whining.

Gordon in the morning: Didn't you do this yesterday?

Having spent yesterday slobbering - I think it was slobber - over Girls Aloud wearing PVC and leather in photos, today Gordon moves on and slobbers over Girls Aloud wearing PVC and leather in a video:

In it, CHERYL COLE, KIMBERLEY WALSH, SARAH HARDING, NADINE COYLE and NICOLA ROBERTS feature as S&M aliens, hurtling towards earth in their own meteorites.

Erm, no they're not. If they've made it to the Earth's atmosphere, they're in meteors; if they haven't, they're in comets. They'd only be in a meteorite if they'd stopped hurtling and had hit the surface.

They also don't look very S&M to me, either. Putting on some rubber knickers doesn't automatically make you into S&M; not only is Gordon confusing his space rocks, he seems to be having trouble with the difference between domination and fetish wear.

Still, Gordon isn't a science writer and there's no reason to assume he'd know about sex, but he does know about entertainment, right? So his coverage of Mel B investing in a French cinema channel to be carried on his master's satellite service will be spot-on, right?
Gallic cinema not being my forte...

I got my art whizzes to come up with a prime example.

Aha. An amusing mock-up. You're not just going to cut out a picture of Mel B and stick in a still from a French movie, are you?
So here’s what Mel would look like in Sixties flick Belle De Jour alongside stars such as smoking hot CATHERINE DENEUVE.


Hang about, though, Gordon - how about telling your readers a little about the film?
BILLIE PIPER’s hit TV series Secret Diary Of A Call Girl was loosely based on the classic flick, about a housewife who becomes a hooker.

Well, if by "loosely" you mean 'was based on a blog written by someone who used the film's name as nomme de plume', I suppose that's true. Although it might be stretching the concept of "based" somewhat.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Justin Timberlake: too busy to make music

It's getting on for three years since Justin Timberlake made an album, and, he tells Entertainment Weekly, he doesn't intend to make one soon, either. Why?

Oh, because it's an effort:

"Right now, I like the idea that things can just kind of pop up and if they feel right I can do them," says Timberlake. "Committing to my own sort of project, that’s like, 'Okay, let me block out two years of my life and do it.' I was heavily fulfilled with the last one and I always have this thing with myself that if I can’t sleep because I need to do it, then I’m gonna do it. But if I’m not losing sleep over it then…"

In a way, I can admire that "make no art unless the not making it becomes unbearable" approach - how much happier a music world would be in if people only made records that the not making thereof kept them awake at night?

But at the same time: you're a bloody singer, Timberlake. Yes, it might mean you have to spend two years working on a 'project' (although, frankly, you could knock one out in three months if you wanted) but that's your job. You chose the job. You signed on for it. It's not like anyone's asking you to spend two years digging coal, or helping old ladies who have soiled their bedclothes. It's a little bit of singing, perhaps a few concert appearances, doing some light banter with Jay Leno - you can even have weekends and evenings off. Most of the time. Don't expect us to start sobbing into our Kleenex because you think making a record is some sort of onerous task, Timbo.

Spandau ReBallet: I know this much is true

Did... did the BBC Ten O'Clock News really carry the news of the Spandau reunion?

They bloody did. Spandau Ballet. I mean, I know you can't spend forever showing photos of the damage to Fred Goodwin's car, but the getting back together of the Spands surely only merits flagship news coverage if you happen to be broadcasting exclusively to Steve Norman's house?

Still, it's good to see that Spandau Ballet have got so poor they're having to pretend to like each other again ("it's good to see that the Spandau boys have put their difference behind them") and will get out to do the job of playing the three songs everyone likes and some others to fill out the time:

Gary Kemp, the group's songwriter and guitarist, explained: "This is my other family really and I just missed them for the last 20 years.

"I wanted to get together just to have a chat about all those great experiences we had. To be able to make some new experiences is a really great opportunity and that's what we plan to do."

Actually, Gary, one of them is also your actual family, isn't he? But I take your point.

Yes, yes, the one they relied on to write the words did just make that clunky "it's all about the experiences we experienced, and now experience tells me that we should experience some unexperienced experiences" statement.

But here's Martin, again with the family metaphors:
Kemp's bassist brother Martin - also known to EastEnders fans as club owner Steve Owen - added: "Families go through terrible times sometimes and they argue.

"But in the end we've got back together - which is the main thing."

Yes, yes, family. All this talk of family might be more touching if it wasn't coming from the pair who played the Krays, who were brothers for whom family had a distinct and slightly chilling overtone.

Still, nice to get the family back together, isn't it, Tony? Tony? Sorry, can't hear you through those gritted teeth - could you speak up?
Hadley said they had buried the hatchet after "the realisation that time is a great healer".

"We all realised how powerful the band were, the songs, and what we did as a band in the '80s," he said.

"We first met in the pub, had a few beers, the stories came up and the anecdotes and we just realised that we're great mates."

... the realisation coming just about the same time as the barman said "come on lads, time to settle the slate before I serve you any more."

Boy George: Worth twenty quid of anyone's money

I can't pretend to know very much about forgery - I can't even fake knowing about it - but surely someone who makes a twenty quid note with Boy George in place of The Queen isn't really doing a forgery, more having a slightly laboured laugh?

Last FM summons whine: Switches off services

For a moment, our gaze is directed away from PRS attacks on Google to the trouble over at Last FM this morning, as the service owners take steps to make it less useful to as many people as possible.

In what we're taking as the largest marketing campaign yet embarked upon on behalf of Spotify, Last FM has thrown up a pay wall around most of its music streams. If you're in Germany, the US or the UK, you can still stream music for free; elsewhere - I haven't had a chance to consult a Gazetteer, but I believe that's 'elsewhere' as in 'nearly all the world' - you'll have to hand over EUR3 a month to hear Last FM radio.

Sorry, I'll read that again: outside those three countries, you'll go elsewhere for your music.

The reason for the paywall is to try and summon some money to pay royalties and return some cash to owners CBS. It's almost as if everyone involved has this far been working on a mistaken assumption of what the financial value of recorded music is online, and is trying to shape their service to match that, rather than finding out where the value point is and building around that. Why does that sound familiar?

But it's not just by closing out the French, the Candians, the French Canadians, the good people of the Gabon and the Leeward Islanders by which Last FM is attempting to scupper itself. Oh, no. Last FM isn't merely getting in the bath with an electric toaster, it's going to take two catering size jars of paracetamol, washed down with a bottle of whisky: has said that all non-official mobile clients will be banned. This isn't going over well.

The change comes with a new developer API that will actually make things much easier for other developers, who've had to rely on a few undocumented calls up until now. Current licensing agreements with labels—who is in no position to alienate—prohibit mobile streaming, though the company's official mobile radio apps—right now just on the iPhone and Android—will still work fine.

Oh, yes. People love the stuff we do so much they build services to help us reach new audiences and move across platforms. Let's stop that happening, then.

Now, of course, there would be objections from the labels - who have never seen a digital development they didn't want blocked by an act of Congress - but surely Last FM could try and win them round? And, if they're really so keen to have 'official' apps for mobile, why not talk to the unofficial guys and see if they can't be brought in-house, or at least given a blessing?

Instead, plugs are pulled. Services are yanked. And a happy web community are happy no more:
That really sucks
I renewed my subscription (I have been a subscriber for a few years) but now regret it as I will no longer be able to listen to the radios in my usual music player, so I paid for nothing.
How sad and dissappointing
You are throwing to the waste bin thousand of free development hours (including many of my own) that directly benefited

I'm sorry that it has come to this. Don't forget that the main value of has been created by its users scrobbling songs, writing the wiki, uploading music, writing software...
Let me tell you something
The Future of is... well, you just have no future. You should be ashamed of this move. You are what you are because of the community (artists, listeners, developers...) and these things are against the community. It's kind of suicidal. You're dead.
R.I.P. Last FM

Russ said: Scrobbling will always be free.
Well, it would be surrealistic to charge us for giving you our data... that's what feeds

Still, I'm sure that Last FM's current userbase will sit tight, and wait until they're allowed to listen to music on their "mobile devices". I'm sure. The internet user base is known for its patience.

Incidentally, tucked in the debate is how, precisely, Last FM defines a mobile device. This is Last FM staffer Russ's response to a question about that:
Re: Re: The Future of Radio APIs
achitnis said:
What defines a "mobile phone" in this case? What about, say, a Nokia N810, which is an Internet tablet/MID, NOT A PHONE. Would this be barred from using the API in an application such as Vagalume to stream music? What about dedicated internet radios? These are all "portable" devices that are not phones, but are certainly mobile.

The N810 doesn't connect to a cellular data network, so it's not a phone.

So, that's the important distinction, is it? So... an iPod Touch connects via WiFI - presumably the apps are fine there, then; while the same app running on the same operating system on an iPhone suddenly becomes invalid because there's an extra antennae in the back of the device? When was this phone/not phone distinction made, precisely? 1803? If you unplug your laptop from an ethernet connection and stick in a 3 dongle, should you stop using Last FM as you're now connecting via a cellular network?

It would be funny if the internet wasn't going to lose a valuable, lovely resource as a result of it all.

YouTube vs the PRS: PRS summons a mob

The YouTube - PRS dispute is, let's be clear, about the level of royalty paid by the video host to the royalties agency. That is all it as about. YouTube place one value on a play of a video; PRS believe it's something different.

You might not guess that from watching the PRS "Fair Play For Creators" site, where songwriters are given the chance to put their case directly, and have a bit of a moan about Google:

Just remove advertising from the 'offending' pages. These pages would earn no money...Google ARE becoming evil.

Roy Williams (Nervous Records), PRS for Music publisher - 24 March 2009

Roy seems to be referring to Google AdWords appearing on sites which allegedly host unlicensed music - a talking point that seems to have bubbled up from nowhere in the last couple of days. And, yes, although he might have completely oversimplified the idea (you can tell an offending page, presumably, by the tiny Skull and Crossbones in the address bar) it's not a bad demand. And one that Google complies with, when sites breaching its AdWrods terms and conditions are reported.

And, much more importantly, one which has nothing to do with the YouTube-PRS skirmish.

PRS for Music exists to ensure songwriters and composers are paid their rightful reward for the music they create. It is not a commercial organisation, but a not-for-profit collective of songwriters, composers and publishers. Google is a big commercial entity which must properly pay the very people who make the YouTube service a success.

Jools Holland, (Broadcaster - Squeeze), PRS for Music songwriter - 24 March 2009

Well, yes, Google is a big commercial entity. That's hardly relevant, though, is it? If someone was booked to go on the Late Show's Later With Jools Holland and demanded a fee based on the number of hits the BBC News website gets worldwide, rather than the audience the specific programme on BBC 2 gets, you might wonder if your guest had lost control of their faculties.

YouTube, financially, isn't a success; it's doing alright, but not printing cash when you take into account its scale. And the company does want to pay, the dispute is over what a fair rate is.

And why is it significant that PRS is "not for profit"? Sure, it makes it sound a little like a charity, which it isn't, and it's lovely that PRS only creams off a little over one pound out of every ten to pay for its administration, and luxury central London offices, and expensive rebranding operations, and campaigning websites. But "PRS is not for profit and Google makes a profit" is hardly a convincing argument, and until PRS starts to campaign for EMI to be nationalised, we're chalking that one up to attempts to disguise the row as being about 'how much money'?

Abba are angry, too:
I get cross when internet companies paint the picture of a faceless and immensely powerful 'intellectual property industry' as their main enemy just because it suits them. Those under attack are people of flesh and blood, who are passionate about their profession. When I speak with younger colleagues about their current situation I feel a strong sense of compassion for them and I understand their anxiety about the future. Some of them feel that their work is being degraded. There are those crusaders for the right to share files who say: 'Why don't they go on tour and sing for their supper'. This argument shows a staggering ignorance of the fact that so many of the people who write the songs have more often than not never been in contact with artist life. They are producers and songwriters, full stop.

Björn Ulvaeus (Abba), songwriter - 24 March 2009

Well, yes... when, exactly did Google or YouTube characterise the PRS as part of the "intellectual property industry" (even although, of course, that's exactly the industry that PRS is in, even if Abba aren't.)

Bjorn is right, of course: there's less money about for songwriters. But isn't that a structural thing, a side-effect of music going from being scarce and distributed through very limited, tightly controlled channels to being not-scarce, and distributed through an unlimited range of outlets beyond anyone's control? Yes, it's terrible that that makes music - in a strict financial sense - less valuable than it was. But why would you conclude that YouTube has a moral duty to recompense on the basis of the 1989 music industry model instead of the 2009 one?

It becomes increasingly obvious that this is the problem facing YouTube: songwriters and musicians are selling a product whose financial price has tanked, and need someone to blame. It's unfortunate they're blaming one of the few companies which seems to genuinely be interested in trying to help them extract as much value as possible from their songs.

Pete Waterman, at least, does put some figures into his argument:

YouTube is not alone in the online hall of shame where the worthy notion of greater consumer choice is used as a cloak to disguise the fact that copyright infringement happens on a grand scale.

I co-wrote 'Never Gonna Give You Up', which Rick Astley performed in the eighties, and which must have been played more than 100 million times on YouTube - owner Google. My PRS for Music income in the year ended September 2008 was £11.

Music videos and music generally is at the very heart of User Generated Content sites. It is the hard work and creative endeavour of songwriters and musicians everywhere that has been the bedrock upon which many of these websites have been built, creating along the way huge value for their owners. As well as arguing with them over royalty rates, we should be fighting them to get proper recognition for the part we've played in building their businesses.

Pete Waterman, (co-writer 'Never Gonna Give You Up'), PRS for Music songwriter - 24 March 2009

Ignore the first paragraph, which has nothing whatsoever to do with trying to agree a royalty rate with a specific company - it's like BAT insisting that Tesco pay more, wholesale, for fags, to make good its losses when people flog knock-off tabs - and instead, let's look at his figures.

He's done a lot of smudging, of course - he doesn't quite say what period the payment actually covers (was it before Rickrolling really took off?), and his claim of "more than 100 million times" seems a bit unlikely - as of now, the two most popular versions of the video on YouTube have hit about 35 million between them, so "more than 100 million" by the end of September might be a bit of an inflation.

Let's also remember that YouTube counts starts of the play, not full play, and given that Rickrolling was a gotcha moment, it's probably that most of those plays were by people who didn't really want to see the song and would have only heard the first few seconds before pulling a wry grin and clicking elsewhere.

And there's three songwriters for the track. So that does treble the amount to £33, plus ten per cent which went to PRS to pay for its staplers and staff, so that's £36. Not a massive amount.

To be fair, Waterman does concede that the use of Astley on YouTube in this way generated massive mainstream media coverage, and lots of events using the tune as well, bringing with it much more substantial PRS earnings that, but for YouTube, he would never have seen. Oh... hang on, he doesn't, does he?

Still, £36 for millions of views. Is that much?

Consider this: Radio One pays £18 per minute for music paid on its most popular programmes. So, two plays of a three minute song on Chris Moyles show, with an audience of 7.5 million, equates to £108 for the equivalent of 15 million single plays; ten per cent off for PRS comes to about £98; between three people, that's a little over £33 for Pete from 15 million "views". Three times as much as he earned from YouTube, perhaps. But again: not an enormous sum of money.

Also: didn't the payment of which Waterman is complaining come through an agreement negotiated by the PRS in the first place?

It's great that songwriters are joining the debate. But all the while they're blaming Google for the world having changed, it's not really going to get us very much further, is it?

Gordon in the morning: Wipe-clean edition

Girls Aloud have done a really uncomfortable-looking shoot to promote their new single. The band have somehow managed to make PVC look a bit frumpy. Not that Gordon minds:

Vinyl release for Girls Aloud

It doesn't sound like vinyl that Gordon's releasing, to be honest:
GIRLS ALOUD ... bringing a smile ... every bloke ... jaw-dropping photoshoot ... band posed ... sexy PVC and leather.

But it's been done so poorly you can see the studio lights reflecting back off the outfits. And not in an arty way, more like it was a snapshot designed to flog Underworld undies on eBay. Let's not even ask why Gordon has got a photo where the women have been cut and paste into a single shot, or what, exactly, was meant to be in the big white rectangle that's hanging awkwardly underneath them.

Yesterday, Gordon caught up with Twitter. Today, it's the Google StreetView. Look out, Aleks Krotoski, he's after your job.

Yes, someone has spotted what may well be Liam Gallagher caught on the Google StreetView camera.

Of course, Google has blurred the faces of people caught by the StreetView camera, but somehow rendering Liam's face as a blank, empty shape makes no real difference.

Meanwhile, does Gordon know something Geri Halliwell doesn't about her current beau?
Earlier this month she binned Italian yacht tycoon FABRIZIO POLITI after meeting him only last December then getting engaged over Christmas.

Now she is already going out again with ex-fella NICK HOUSE.

He's an ex-fella? I think, Gordon, you'll find the acceptable tabloidese is 'Geezer to chick sex-swap shocker'. Unless that wasn't what you meant?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wonka plonks cash

The US Bamboozle tour has just announced a big sponsorship deal with Wonka. Which is Nestle under a name which used to evoke the precise opposite of the corporate, baby-milk flogging behemoth which Nestle suggests.

The Brand Week story which runs the story seems to have confused the real Wonka with the fictional character:

Nestle’s Wonka candy brand will be the presenting sponsor of The Bamboozle, a music festival and 22-market tour featuring No Doubt, Fall Out Boy and other pop-punk groups. Live Nation is producing Bamboozle, which is in its fifth year, and secured the sponsorship deal.

Wonka probably evokes the term “experiential” like no other candy brand thanks to the Ronald Dahl book Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and the 1971 film (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) that inspired it. It linked to a music event because it is positioned as the festival that connects artists to fans. Wonka will help ensure that by presenting backstage interviews and fan experiences via its Web site and its new SKUs by sampling candy on site.

Yes. They do say Ronald Dahl.

Jackson: Never say Neverland auction again

You might have to ask yourself if Michael Jackson's sudden change of mind about flogging off stuff from Neverland could - just about - have something to do with the sudden influx of money raised by announcing gigs in Greenwich.

Naturally, the decision to not auction some stuff after all can't be a simple process; Oh, no, it has to involve lawsuits and threats.

First Jacko filed a lawsuit claiming that many of the items Julien's Auctions had up for sale he'd never agreed to; now Julien's have countersued:

The company's president, Darren Julien, said in a sworn statement filed with a Los Angeles court that the singer's representatives even tried to intimidate him into postponing the sale.

During a Feb. 9 meeting at a fast-food restaurant in Los Angeles, he said, one of Jackson's employees warned that the auctioneers would be in danger "from Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam," if they didn't call it off.

"He told us that Dr. Tohme and Michael Jackson wanted to give the message to us 'that our lives are at stake and there will be bloodshed,'" Julien said, referring to Jackson business manager, Tohme Tohme.

Although, having sworn this in a legal document, Julien goes on to say that he didn't believe it was a genuine threat anyway.

Jackson's people say all this talk of Louis Farrakhan is designed to be some sort of smokescreen to distract attention from the auction house's own wrongdoing - although it's hard to see why you'd bring the Nation Of Islam into it if that was what you were up to. Wouldn't that just attract more attention for the whole story?

Oddly, though, the auction is still going ahead and both sides are working together to parade the lots on a little tour of the country.

It's all more exciting than Cash In The Attic, isn't it?

An old-fashioned round-up

Police! Do you need to boost your clean-up rates by rounding up some lightweight "criminals"? Just arresting a few fans at local metal gigs can increase the number of solved crimes on your patch.

Don't just take our word for it - ask Derry Township Police Department. They employed a sweep of the Hershey Buckcherry/Avenged Sevenfold/Papa Roach gig and wound up with 17 extra arrests.

It's true. They found these results:

* Four charges for possession of marijuana
* Five charges for disorderly conduct
* Eight charges for underage drinking
* Three charges for public drunkenness
* One charge for criminal mischief

These were on top of eleven similar not-that-serious arrests made at Motley Crue earlier in the month. Thank god for someone brave enough to take the criminal mischief-makers off the street, eh?

Obama: Change is one thing, but copyright is another

The appointment of RIAA attorneys to top jobs in the Obama administration suggested that in the New America, it would be more of the same as far as copyright went.

And now, we've had that confirmed, in writing: Michelle Bennett, Department of Justice trial attorney, has defended the indefensible demands for copyright restitution made by the RIAA cartel:

The government said the damages range of $750 to $150,000 per violation of the Copyright Act was warranted.

"The remedy of statutory damages for copyright infringement has been the cornerstone of our federal copyright law since 1790, and Congress acted reasonably in crafting the current incarnation of the statutory damages provision."

She has a point - back in 1793, George Highsmith, Esquire, was fined USD75,000 for copying an etching. It was, observed the judge, as if he had just gone into an etching store "and made his egress without regard to recompensing the proprietor for his wares."

Bennett does, at least, attempt to explain why charging made-up sums of money is cool with the White House:
"Congress sought to account for both the difficulty of quantifying damages in the context of copyright infringement and the need to deter millions of users of new technology from infringing copyrighted work in an environment where many violators believe that their activities will go unnoticed," Bennett wrote.

So, let's not bother sullying the debate by considering if the amount charged is fair to the individual - since lots of people get away with "it", anyone who does get caught should be fined a sum to reflect other people's crimes, too. That seems fine.

And, really, you can't expect a fair fine, as it's so difficult to work out exactly how much financial damage has been done to the RIAA companies - so what could be more just than simply making up a number? "You have stolen some money, and since we can't be arsed to work out how much money you stole, we'll say its sixteen thousand pounds, shall we? Pay it back."

Siding with multinational corporations in pursuing unjust financial demands against low-income individuals. Isn't that the change you voted for, America?

[Thanks to Sarah W for the link]

Ticketmaster go Phishing

More misery constructed by Ticketmaster - apparently the world's clumsiest company - as they sell Phish tickets to a delighted audience, only to then snatch them back. Phish issued a statement:

Last night we learned Ticketmaster mistakenly put on sale a substantial number of four-day passes to Phish's concerts this summer at Red Rocks Amphitheater, giving some fans an unfair advantage to purchase tickets ahead of the March 26th publicly announced on sale date. Ticketmaster has fully acknowledged this significant error, and to make sure that all of our fans have the same, fair opportunity to purchase tickets to this event, they have cancelled all of these orders with all charges being refunded.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause our fans. We are in active dialogue with Ticketmaster to push them to address the inconvenience their error has caused.

Phish takes this and all ticketing matters extremely seriously. We will seek assurances this type of error will not happen again in the future. The high demand for the tickets on Phish's return has overwhelmed the prevailing ticketing systems and revealed their flaws. We are putting pressure on the ticketing providers to improve their systems. We are focused on the ticket broker activity in our tickets and the inability of the existing ticket systems to stop this. We are actively seeking options to limit this.

As a reminder, the public on sale date for Red Rocks is Thursday, March 26th at 12:00 Noon Mountain time and additionally Phish's ticket request period will remain open until 11:59PM eastern time this Sunday the 22nd. Please visit to request tickets.

Phish are pushing Ticketmaster to "address the inconvenience"? How are Ticketmaster going to do that, exactly?

By handing out fifty dollars. Sort of:
Dear Phish fan:
Unfortunately, the tickets that you ordered from Ticketmaster for performances of Phish scheduled at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre between the dates of July 30th and August 2nd, 2009 were put on sale inadvertently, allowing you to order tickets before they were supposed to have been released for sale to the general public. The sale of these tickets prior to the scheduled onsale date was the result of an inadvertent error on the part of Ticketmaster. While we strive to be perfect, errors do occur, albeit rarely. Per our stated policy and our practice Ticketmaster refunds purchases in such situations and cancels the tickets. In this case, while we asked the credit card companies for an authorization code at order time, we did not and will not charge your card for the purchase price and have canceled your order for tickets.

In addition, we'd like to show our sincere regret for this error by providing you with a gift certificate in the amount of $50.00 that is redeemable for any purchase for tickets to qualifying events on or through our call centers as long as your order was in accordance with our standard order guidelines. You should receive this gift certificate in the next two weeks.

We are sorry that we were not able to provide you with the tickets you ordered and hope that we will have the chance to serve you better in the future. We encourage you to visit Ticketmaster at the scheduled onsale for Phish at Red Rocks currently scheduled for Thursday March 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm MT.

David Butler
Ticketmaster North America

Ticketmaster "strive to be perfect"? Ticketmaster actually giving a credit for one its errors? Wow, it's almost like they're striving to convince the Department Of Justice that they're a reasonable, great-to-do-business-with type of company rather than some sort of evil corporation.

And who will pay for those vouchers? Will it come out of profits, or simply slapped back on ticket prices as some sort of handling fee?

EMI's digital strategy: hit 'random'

Less than a year ago, EMI proudly unveiled their new digital strategy, in the form of hiring Douglas Merrill from Google. On the basis that Google are on the computers, and make money, so perhaps he might have some idea about how to put EMI on the computers and make some money for them, too.

At the time, I did suggest that Merrill's grand plan of "ooh, let's try some stuff that I have yet to think of" might struggle to win round the corporation, and so it proved, with Merrill being kicked out on his arse with only a terse

I would like to thank Douglas for his contribution and to wish him well for the future.

for company.

Is it possible that the same person in EMI drafts the official 'Razorlight lads happy with split' and 'executives delighted to be moving on' press releases?

Anyway, with Merrill forlornly putting files into boxes and wondering if Google want him back, what's EMI's digital strategy now, then?
I am delighted to announce that Cory Ondrejka is appointed to the newly-created position of Executive Vice President, Digital Marketing, reporting initially to me and then to our new President of Marketing whose appointment we expect to announce shortly. We have been planning this promotion for Cory for some time now. In his new role he will help us deliver our goal of leveraging the power of digital across our business, particularly in the key areas of consumer understanding and analytics, content creation and digital marketing, in order to strengthen the relationship and interaction between our artists and their fans.

In the original draft of the memo, but removed for final release, there was a paragraph about how Ondrejka will forge a magical binary axe, to smite the many hordes of peer-to-peer pirates, the better to lead EMI into the new world. He said this might be a bit too specific.

Still, it's a bit of a hard job he's taking on. If a guy from Google can't make EMI work as a digital business, what background could possibly be right for the task?
Cory is a highly talented executive with a passion for music and a complementary, technology-based skillset. Since he joined us from Second Life last year he has helped us create a new approach to digital that will be unique to the music industry including establishing a world-class engineering team on the West coast and instituting modern, agile software development practices and tools that are the foundations to help us transform our approach to analytics and marketing.

Second Life? Second 'modish for a while, and now used in meetings as a punchline to jokes about how fast technology moves leaving stuff look outdated' Life, you mean?

Let's hope that Ondrejka is a success, otherwise next Spring EMI will be introducing Tom Nook as the new Digital Vice President.

Is it just me, or does EMI seem to be cantering off in completely the wrong direction here? Does it really need to have an engineering team inventing stuff? Sure, that's nice to do, if you can afford the time and money, but EMI doesn't really have either? Shouldn't it be concentrating its efforts on selling music through the stuff that's already out there? Nobody wants an EMI plug-in for their browser, or a 3D music analysis package which only works with EMI bands.

Perhaps the engineers are working on something really, really clever - maybe a way to allow people to buy mp3 files direct by right-clicking on band names wherever they are on the internet - but when the memo is excited about where they (the West Coast? Blimey, they must be brilliant if their computers aren't in Kansas or somewhere) are rather than what they're doing, you have to doubt it.

Bob Dylan is blowin' in the wind

Bob Dylan, out of the advert for the Co-Op, is doing a secret special gig at the Roundhouse in Camden. You need to register in advance to be in with a shout of getting one of the 3,000 tickets, but even if you miss out, the whole thing with be streamed on the internet.

If you do watch online, don't be too quick to ring tech support. He does actually sing in that voice these days, it's not a problem with the audio buffering.

Gordon in the morning: Is Jackson giving an exclusive to the Mirror or something?

After a couple of weeks patting Michael Jackson on the head and treating him he like he was still the 1983 version of Michael Jackson, there's something of a surprising change of tone in Bizarre this morning. The news that Jackson has (supposedly) invited the cast of Harry Potter backstage gets a headline treatment:

Harry Potter And The Moonwalking Oddball

And, all of a sudden, Gordon's remembered that Jackson isn't the King Of Pop, but That Bloke Who Is Overfond Of Kiddies:
MICHAEL JACKSON has invited the young stars of the Harry Potter films to be access all areas guests at the opening night of his sellout summer shows.

Aren’t they a bit old for him?
But the three stars — who play Harry, Hermione and Ron — can leave their Nimbus 2000s at Hogwarts for a night on the Jesus Juice with Pop King Jacko.

They won’t even need to take Hagrid along to keep an eye on them now that they are all over 18.
He has always had an eye for a young acting star.

Nudge, nudge.

Not that Gordon is quite ready to march on the Millennium Dome with burning torches:
I’m still in two minds about Jacko’s return.

My gran — at 82-years-young — is more nimble than he is, although her moonwalk needs some work.

If he is fit enough to perform then the gigs will be the most memorable the O2 has seen since LED ZEPPELIN reformed for a one-off special last year.

But if I had a ticket for any night after the tenth date I’d have a letter ready asking for a refund... just in case.

Oh no... did he just say "82 years young"? Like he's a heartwarming amateur columnist on a local freesheet, or the morning host on a Gold station?

Gordon has got some bang-up-to-the-minute news, though, with his first sort-of Twitter story:
SCREEN beauty JENNIFER ANISTON dumped her boyfriend because he couldn’t keep his hands off Twitter, her pals revealed last night.

Rocker JOHN MAYER said he was too busy to return calls while Jennifer was away promoting her new film.

But Friends star Jen spotted he was updating his page of the networking site instead.

Although since Twittering is one of the ways artists help nurture their fanbase, isn't that like Mayer dropping Aniston for spending too much time acting?

Still, at least there's no danger of anyone dumping Goagsieman for over-enthusiastic updating of his Twitter stream.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Department of Justice wants a closer look at Ticketmaster-LiveNation

If Ticketmaster and LiveNation were hoping to be given an easy ride into a merger, they're going to be disappointed. The tie-up is being given a closer eye, with the Department of Justice calling for more details.

Meanwhile, Ticketmaster is suffering from, oh, too much success:

Ticketmaster chairman Barry Diller repeated his denial of that practice late Thursday. He also said the complaints that fans were shut out of Phish and Michael Jackson concerts were due to the tickets selling out in seconds.

"Oddly, the better we sell tickets, the more unpopular we become," Diller said.

Equally oddly, the more clumsy and clunky your systems are, the more people who get booted out, or dumped back at the log-in screen, or can't even get on in the first place, the more unpopular you become. Oddly, the more obscure mark-ups to ticket prices you come up with, the more unpopular you become. The more you try to form a large, monopoly-tang behemoth, the more unpopular you become. It's like you can't get an even break, innit?

Move on, Moyles

Ofcom has just published a page with advice on how to complain about broadcasting. They've illustrated it with a photo of Chris Moyles.

The regulator was also busy today posting a bumper edition of its complaints bulletin, which - once past objecting to a massive pile of sponsorship break bumpers - gets down to considering Moyles' birthday song for Will Young:

He then imitated Will Young by singing alternative versions of two of the singer’s well known singles: ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Leave Right Now’. During the imitation the presenter adopted an effeminate and high pitched voice.

When singing his alternative version of ‘Evergreen’, Chris Moyles broadcast the lyrics: “It’s my birthday, gonna wear my new dress tonight. And I smell nice. I’ve had a shower and I’ve shaved my legs. Going out later, might go to Nob-oooh for dinner.”

During the alternative version of ‘Leave Right Now’, Chris Moyles broadcast the lyrics: “Oooh Will Young here, mmmmh. I’m here, it’s Will’s birthday and as the years go by I get more very gay. When you saw me years ago you didn’t know, but now I’m the gayest fella you probably know. mmm I like to wear a silly hat, I get camper by the hour, oh would you look at the muck in here. I’m Will Young and I’m gay.”

The BBC - with a straight face - tried to insist that this wasn't a joke at the expense of Young's sexuality.

The Corporation did allow that, you know, maybe the comments were "unacceptable". Although this seems a bit confusing: if the 'jokes' weren't about his sexuality, what does the BBC think was unacceptable about them?

Ofcom decided this humour was not just unacceptable, but offensive as well; it pointed out this isn't the first time that it's upheld complaints about Chris Moyles.

It's sparked a piece by John Plunkett in MediaGuardian which first lambasts Moyles' humour, before changing tack and suggests that just maybe it's time for Moyles and some of his chums to step down from Radio One regardless of their record:
Moyles, 35, has presented the breakfast show since January 2004 and remains hugely popular with listeners. Jo Whiley, 43, joined Radio 1 in 1993 and has presented the lunchtime show since 1997. And don't even get me started on Westwood. Okay then, he's 51.

There are good DJs. And there are old DJs. And there are good, old DJs. But should they be on Radio 1?

Plunkett suggests its time for a Bannister-style Year Zero. And you'd think he might have a point, were he not suggesting this:
"Radio 1 chiefs are believed to be keen on rising star Reggie Yates," said the Sun. And if he wasn't co-hosting the chart show with Fearne Cotton, 25-year-old Yates might be able to get a word in edgeways.

A younger voice is already on its way, with weekend breakfast host Nick Grimshaw about to fill the weekday evening slot being vacated by Colin Murray - aged 32, if you must know - who is off to BBC Radio 5 Live.

Nick Grimshaw and Reggie Yates? Bloody hell, you'd be better off bringing back Adrian Juste and Steve Wright, wouldn't you?

Downloadable: Pansy Division

There hasn't been a proper Pansy Division album for six years, something which is about to be put right by That's So Gay. It's due out in the US on March 31st, includes a collaboration with Jello Biafra, and includes this: Twinkie, Twinkie Little Star. That's an mp3 what you can download for free and enjoy.

Later in the year, they're doing a DVD, Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band. That even manages to get a guest appearance from Rob Halford, and is being trailed on the internet, elsewhere.