Saturday, April 17, 2010

Information Is Beautiful: Life on the minimum wage

Information Is Beautiful - the site that takes numbers and makes them pretty has pulled together a graphic which shows the activity a musician would need to do each month in order to make the US minimum wage.

It runs from selling own-produced CDs (143 at $9.99 a piece) to plays on Spotify (4,549,020 plays at $0.00043 a play).

Unusually for an Information Is Beautiful graphic, it actually obscures the facts rather than makes them clearer. For a start, there's a muddle between units - physical albums, single downloads and single streams is a bit like comparing the sales of cups of Starbucks coffee, packets of ground coffee and jars of Nescafe. An album is a bunch of songs, a single track is a single track, and to compare like with like perhaps the graphic should start from the premise 'how many songs must an artist shift' to make minimum wage.

There's also the problem of the way the data is portrayed - a massive circle for streaming, which makes it look like it takes a lot more effort than just selling a dozen CDs each month.

But that's a bit of a misrepresentation - it's hugely unlikely that any one person is going to buy your album more than once. If they love your song, they may stream it every day.

If someone in Arkansas likes one of your songs, they might tell a friend in Ohio about it. If you're using a business model based on selling self-produced CDs, you're going to struggle to be able to convert that into an instant sale. If your model has Spotify streaming, a link could be sent via email, and a stream play racked up there and then. (Assuming Spotify ever get round to launching in the US.) In effect, you're earning money as soon as someone says 'I think you'd like this artist' in a way that you don't get if you're only using physical sales.

There's also the marginal costs of production. It would be unfair to expect the graphic to show this clearly, but to sell 100 albums takes investment in producing 100 albums. Each extra album you want to sell costs a little bit. If you're incredibly lucky, you might get your stock levels spot on. If you're not, you'll either spend money on records you cant sell - and wind up like Alan McGee, hiding Legend! discs under the bed, eating into your profit margins - or you'll have demand you can't satisfy and lose money you could have earned. Streaming, once you're on the system, there's no marginal cost of production.

It's interesting in itself, but it only tells a portion of the story. It'd be nice to see a similar image with, say, the promotional costs needed to achieve these figures factored in.

[Thanks to Michael M, who suggested this would be interesting]

Downloadable: UNKLE

The men from UNKLE are flinging at you a free track, Caged Bird:

It's intended to make you get all excited in advance of the new album Where Did The Night Fall. Did it work?

The illustrated Hello: Charlie Parker

Not Charles Parker, who produced the BBC's Radio Ballads, which led to the creation of songs like this one, written by Ewan McColl, and performed here by Raymond Crooke:

And certainly not Bruce Parker, who rode the South Today desk for what seemed like an eternity:

Nor, sadly, is it Peter Parker, our current Glaswegian crushes:

No, the Beloved were hailing Charlie Parker, the legend of jazz. Not only for how he played himself, but for the way he shaped Dizzy Gillespie's sound as well:

[Buy: Peter Parker - Swallow The Rockets

Charlie Parker 10 CD Box set]

[Part of The Illustrated Hello]

Gordon in the morning: How many non-stories are there about N-Dubz?

Dappy appears to treat women like a total arse; Gordon spins this as some sort of adventure story.

I'm sure the characterisation of Dappy's ex-girlfriend as borderline psychotic was of no concern to the Sun legal team. It's not like she's going to be able to afford to sue, is it?

Venuewatch: Korova on fire

The Korova building on Hope Street, Liverpool was on fire earlier this morning, reports

The fire was bad enough to need neighbouring buildings evacuated, but has apparently been brought into control.

The Korova is a multi-purpose arts place, and has featured gigs from The XX, Enter Shikari, Florence And The Machine and, ooh, oodles of others. Let's hope they're not too badly damaged inside.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Metalobit: Peter Steele

Type O Negative's singer, Peter Steele, has died, his bandmates have confirmed.

The internet had killed him off before. In 2005, the band posted a mock tombstone with his name on it, which seems a bit a grim way of promoting a record when you have a sickly singer. Type O Negative had pulled their tour the year before after "anomalies" had been found during one of Steele's medicals.

Steele once suggested in an interview with MTV that music might have screwed him up:

On more than one occasion, he emphasized to me that he'd have been a much happier guy if he never picked up a bass or sang a note. He compared his relationship with music to an affliction he had to endure and pulled no punches when discussing his distaste for record labels and mainstream goth culture. He was a contrarian to the end and wrote lyrics that were perceived as anti-Semitic (even though his keyboardist, Josh Silver, was Jewish) and homophobic (which he may have been). In 2007, the last time we talked, Steele told me, "That which does not destroy me just makes me more irritable, which I plan to take out on the band the next tour."

Born in Brooklyn as Petrus T Ratajczyk, it's believed Steele died from heart failure. He was 48.

Embed and breakfast man: Kids Of 88

What would it sound like if Visage were working with the Pet Shop Boys? A bit like this, possibly - Kids Of 88 doing Just A Little Bit. It's a pity the video veers into the wet-dreamy:

Not the Gina G song, then.

They're from New Zealand, which might be why we've been waiting two years for a follow-up to their debut single. It's a long way to walk.

[Touch the Kids of 88 on Facebook]

Gordon in the morning: All I got was a headful of heroin

Gordon Smart has worrying news for the S Club Juniors, as Russell Brand wants to kill them:

OUTSPOKEN RUSSELL BRAND has called for "teenybopper" pop stars to take heroin - so some of them DIE.

The comic said the idea would "weed out" those who did not have true talent and save the industry.

And it was an idea he was seriously promoting, wasn't it, Smart? Presented with a Powerpoint flipchart and a single-sided A4 takeaway, rather than, say, just being an amusing throwaway gag in a Rolling Stone interview.
Last night anti-drug campaigners called his comments "idiocy".

Did they? It's interesting that you don't name any. Because, frankly, if anyone working in addiction or drugs control responded to this with the words "I don't think a small joke in a Rolling Stone interview is worth detaining us, they're probably in the wrong job.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gordon in the morning: Playground taunts

You know what, Gordon Smart? Using the word 'lesbo' in a headline is low even by your standards.

By the way: Brooke Vincent isn't actually gay, so her interest in a man isn't in any way strange - she only pretends to be Sophie Webster. In the same way that I wouldn't let the bloke who plays her Dad fix the brakes on your car. Not even your car, Gordon Smart.

Venuewatch: Jillys And Music Box

Grim news from Manchester, where long-running twin venues Jillys Rockworld And The Music Box have gone into liquidation and are closing. Their farewell statement:








The club had a run of nearly forty years, first under the names Fagans and Rafters, and has offered a home to any number of awkward, developing and downright weird clubnights and performers. There can't be many places which gave a stage to both Tommy Cooper and Mr Scruff. Music historians will know this as the place where Tony Wilson discovered Joy Division, but they provided countless smaller discoveries for thousands of people down the years.

Rumours on Twitter suggest the places are going to be turned into a Tesco; the buildings surely deserve better than that.

[Thanks to Morag for the alert]

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

White Rose Movement: The end of the movement

Tomorrow and Thursday, it's your last chance to see the bloody brilliant White Rose Movement before the become one of this nation's great lost bands:

It is with great sadness that we announce that the collective that has been White Rose Movement has decided to call it a day. It has been a very hard decision to make, White Rose Movement has been our lives and passion for these past few years.

We were lucky enough to release our first album which we are all proud of, unfortunately, the second has proved more difficult. Although it has been finished for some time, we have faced many brick walls and without the relevant support, it has proved a struggle to sort its final flight into the public domain. It's an album that we have spent much time compiling and we hope that you'll get to hear it somehow so that your waiting has not been in vain.

We would like to say that your support has been absolutely incredible. It has been a pleasure playing to you in your cities and we thank you profusely for the opportunity to do so. We've had some of the most outrageous, fun, hilarious and at times surreal moments with this band and we won't forget a single second.

Some of you have become our good friends and our loyal supporters and it's wonderful to know that our music made some sort of connection with you. This makes this goodbye all the more painful. There's a lot of love in this band and despite its demise, we will remain the best of friends.

We would like to say that our last three shows will be the following: Babylon, Istanbul on the 26th of March Suite Festival in Madrid on the 15th of April Sala Santana 27 in Bibao on the 16th of April

We hope you can join us,

Team White Rose x

Nothing in the Digital Economy Bill would have changed this state of affairs. Sadly missing you already.

Lost FM: Last FM does less

It's not quite as apocalyptic as it sounds as first: is retiring a feature whereby users could play any full song they like, and is instead outsourcing the feature to a range of third-party, cloud-based music services.

You can still listen to music through Last FM: it's just you can only do so now through its clunky random radio service.

So it's not quite Last FM falls silent; and pointing listeners to hear a specific track on a different service isn't a bad idea. Kind of implies that they're struggling to make enough money to cover the bandwidth costs of people having a quick, specific listen, though.

BBC say 2Extra is just a isn't going to happen

The BBC has poured a large bucket of cold water over the stories that 6Music will be saved and rebranded as Radio 2 Extra:

In a brief statement, the BBC said: "We have said that we will re-invest any funds from the proposed closure of 6 Music in digital radio content. This commitment remains and we are looking at a number of ways of doing it.

"But simply re-branding 6 Music as Radio 2 Extra is not one of them"

Although if they were simply rebranding 6 as 2Extra, there wouldn't be any savings from the closure of 6Music anyway, so this is a bit of an empty statement.

Also: although this appears on Radio Today, the BBC Press Office haven't issued a copy.

Darkness at 3AM: The Scissor Sisters return

The 3AM Girls bring exciting news.

The Scissor Sisters have made a brand new album.

No, please, please, try and keep calm.

After four years, you'll obviously be curious as to what they sound like, and the 3AMies have the scoop:

Scissor Sisters announced their return last night with a new album, Night Work, their first in more than four years. The sleeve is a YMCA-inspired take on Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA and frontman Jake tells: "Night Work is us boiled down to who we are. It feels quintessentially us."

Well, I for one can't wait to listen to a record that sounds like it has a YMCA-inspired take on Springsteen on the cover. That's probably my third or fourth favourite genre.

Gordon in the morning: It's the new Top 40 from Radio One

You have to scroll quite a way, but there's an interesting story in Bizzare this morning. You have to get past the bombast and bits that seem to be just speculative:

THE Top 40 could be consigned to history with secret plans at Radio 1 to develop a new pop chart.

Before you get to the meat:
The BBC has employed web programmers to come up with a rundown that collates data from streaming sites, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

This will then be combined with traditional sales figures to make a list which truly reflects the nation's tastes.

... well, no, it'd produce a list which reflects which tracks are being bought and which streamed through various sites, which isn't quite the same thing.

And, of course, it would be much easier for people to game the system if all you need to do is get people to play your video over and over on YouTube to get a spot on the Christmas Top Of The Pops.

Gordon can't wait:
The application, likely to be launched later this year, could be a start to get great new bands in a "real" chart.

He's right - imagine a world where, instead of a chart dominated by Justin Beiber and Lady GaGa, you have a chart full of Justin Beiber, Lady GaGa and, erm, OK Go.

I'm sure Smart understands that the BBC don't actually compile the current charts, doesn't he?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Liam Gallagher's swift comeback

There is l'esprit d'escalier, and then there is l'esprit d'a month or so later. James P writes with news of Liam Gallagher:

Liam Gallgher's said something again. This time it's another attack on Peter Kay, which he gurgled to ShortList magazine. As is traditional, Gallagher issues this brave threat of violence some time after the actual event, rather than just bloody getting on and doing it while the target's standing right there in front of him, calling him a knob.

His razor-sharp attack in full: "Talking of k**b, have you seen yours lately, you f***ing fat c***? Know what I mean? Bet he ain't seen his for years. That is one c*** who'd get decked if I saw him on the street, believe you me."

Believe me him, Kay is now quaking in his boots, living in fear that he may one day run into Gallagher in the street and suffer a surprise decking which, as history has shown us, would consist of Gallagher spotting him, leaping out of the way to hide behind a nearby drummer, waiting for his security staff to safely restrain him then delivering a series of devastating angry pointings.

(Have pop music feuds always been this dire, by the way? I'm sure bands used to write whole songs attacking their foes. These days all we seem to get is the printed equivalent of a drunk man shaking his fist with impotent rage at a kebab van, before skulking home muttering "It's a good job you held me back, because... Ooh... He was lucky")

Let's hope this forms part of the protocol for the Prime Minister Debates. It'd be nice to see Gordon Brown turn up in the Telegraph in mid-July saying "you know what, I should have said 'It's not you coming from Eton, it's the Eton mess you'll make of things.' I might have won, then. I bloody would have done."

We're all in this together: Cameron keen on Keane

Having got themselves into a bit of a bate about Labour launching their manifesto in a hospital, sort of, you'd expect the Conservatives to have made sure their launch was all spot on. Everyone on message, everyone taking part signed up to the message (which seems to be 'sod it, you do the bloody work'). Right?

Rock band Keane have said that the Conservative Party did not seek their permission to use one of their hits at their election manifesto launch.

Band member Richard Hughes wrote on Twitter he was "horrified" to hear 2004 song Everybody's Changing played.

Yes, perhaps because Cameron's gone a bit Kurtz and decided that we're all going to be in the cabinet, he's started by co-opting Keane.

Still, given that the band are clearly angry, the Conservatives will have an explanation as to why this is alright, won't they?
A Conservative spokesman said: "It's a great song and David's a great fan".

To be fair, people worry that Cameron might not be anything special, but a man who has found a way to make Keane seem a even more limp should not be underestimated.

I'm looking forward to government on this basis, though, as we'll all be able to go for a ride in Cameron's official car - it'll be alright, just so long as we say "we love this car, and it's got brilliant suspension."

Vote Labour. Save 6Music. Perhaps.

Gordon Brown hasn't quite added a 6Music twibbon to his election avatar, but he has offered his backing for the campaign to save the network via the medium of an interview with the Radio Times:

Gordon Brown told the Radio Times that he is backing the campaign to protect the digital station, facing closure as part of a shake-up of the corporation intended to divert £600m into programme-making.

"[I] think, personally, that the BBC should not have succumbed to pressure to cut certain things – but they have," he told the magazine. Asked whether he was in favour of the campaign to save 6 Music, he said: "Yes because it's the next stage you worry about. The Conservatives have said that they'll hive off Radio 1.

"A lot of things that the BBC does are incredibly creative and quite risky. But this is a necessary means of us being a creative society."

Okay, it's an election year, and you suspect Brown or Cameron would claim to be supporters of Brighton And Hove Albion if they thought there was a vote in it, but it's still pleasing to see that Brown is prepared to offer his support for Marc Riley's career.

Sadly, the Radio Times doesn't appear to have followed up with a question about the loss of the fourth Radcliffe and Maconie show, but they did try this gambit:
Asked whether he preferred listening to Chris Moyles on Radio 1, Chris Evans and Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 or Jarvis Cocker on 6 Music, he replied: "Definitely 6 Music. Definitely."

Yes, Gordon. I actually believe that the new manifesto was knocked out while listening to Italian library music on The Freak Zone.

Shirley Manson definitely back in music

It's not exactly news, as she'd been talking about being back in the studio a couple of months ago, but talking to the Daily Record Shirley Manson has confirmed that she's working on new music.

What we've not heard before is why she decided to return:

Shirley said: "Friends of mine lost their son to cancer last year and they asked me to sing his favourite song, Life on Mars, at the memorial.

"We were all in so much pain but it meant so much to them that I could sing that song and it meant so much to me that I was able to do something.

"It made me realise how much music sustains people. I don't know why I turned my back on it."

Gordon in the morning: Astley crashes engagement party

Let's not detain ourselves too long on the headline on Gordon's coverage of Paul Weller's engagement:

Weller's the changingman

It doesn't make any sense at all, does it? Engaging Man, surely?

Mind you, the story itself is just as odd. It starts off sounding like it's being written by Ena Sharples:
PAUL WELLER has an extra spring in his step - he's just got engaged to a girl less than half his age.

Less than half his age? (So she must be, what, less than 64?) Is she - and I'm guessing here - also no better than she ought to be? Maybe she's a flighty one, that one.
The Modfather's fiancée, HANNAH ANDREWS, was wearing a huge sparkler on her wedding finger as they hit the shops in London at the weekend.

A huge sparkler? Suddenly we're out of Weatherfield and caught in the middle of a heist caper.

By the way, it's called a ring finger. Unless Andrews has an extra finger. Or maybe a third hand. Maybe it's a marriage hand.

If the crashing style is strange, the next paragraph gets really odd. We've heard Weller is engaged, and his fiance has a ring. Can you guess where Gordon is going next?
And Eighties icon RICK ASTLEY popped up on Sunday behind the drums for new band THE LUDDITES, at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, Surrey.

It's not just that there's no apparent link between the two stories, it's that "and", which suggests there's something that connects them - not only did Weller pop the question, but he made Rick Astley play drums.

I'm not quite sure why Smart is so puzzled by Astley appearing with the Luddites, either - given the band is called Rick Astley And The Luddites. But then 'Astley popped up with Rick Astley & The Luddites' might have just been too odd, even for this column.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ringo blames money-grabbers for his withdrawal from autographs

A couple of years ago, Ringo Starr made himself look a bit of a soft lad by taking to YouTube to tell fans he wouldn't sign anything any more.

In his original video, he told the world he was too busy, but - having had over a year to come up with a better line - he's now insisting he was just trying to stop himself being taken for a ride:

Now he has told BBC Radio 2 that the move was due to people selling on his signiatures.

"I was signing and then they were on eBay the next day," he said. "So I just decided, 'I think I've done my share. That's it'."

Odd he didn't think to mention that at the time, isn't it?
He added: "I honestly didn't think it was going to be world news – BBC and CNN," he laughed.

Clearly, Starr hasn't seen the lengths 24 rolling news leads some stations to go to in order to fill the hours.

The illustrated Hello: Steve and Claire

Another name check for pals of the band, and, thus, another chance to let the Beloved do their thing:

[Part of ilustrated Hello]

The illustrated Hello: Desmond Tutu

Not, perhaps, the greatest tribute that Tutu has ever been given - once you've had the Nobel Prize, getting a chance to sit alongside Billy Corkhill and Little Neepsie in a song is hardly in the same league.

He didn't just fight aparthied; he also had a go at Tony Blair for following George Bush into Iraq:

"When does compassion, when does morality, when does caring come in? I just hope that one day that people will realise that peace is a far better path to follow. Many, many of us are deeply saddened to see a great country such as the United States aided and abetted extraordinarily by Britain. I have a great deal of time for your prime minister but I'm shocked to see a powerful country use its power frequently, unilaterally. The United States says you do this to the world, if you don't do it we will do it - that's sad."

Unlike Geldof and Bono, Tutu didn't seem convinced that he could only offer a little demurring mumble lest he undermine his power to be listened to on debt and poverty.

How to illustrate Tutu musically? How better than with a trio of anti-aparthied songs, when musicians were offering the solidarity with the African people that governments refused to offer.

First, Yami Bolo's Free Mandela, with the sort of low-quality imagery that makes the Chart Show indie rundown look like Avatar:

The more famous call for Mandela's freedom, from The Specials. The video is on YouTube, but - with no sense of irony - EMI doesn't want it released into the wider web, so here's the Top Of The Pops performance:

And, finally, while Queen and Status Quo were happy to go and take the apartheid regime's money for playing at the phoney homeland resort of Sun City, others were prepared to say no:

[Part of the Illustrated Hello]

Dairylea and farewells: Supergrass put out to grass

I never did like those claymation cows they've been using in Dairylea adverts for the last few years. So it's lovely to see Evil Corporate Behemoth Kraft reverting to a traditional "young scamps eating cheese without the need for claymation cow tomfoolery" adverts. And using Supergrass is an act of genius - it makes the advert feel as if it's been on the air for a million years, already.

I say 'genius'. I mean 'evil genius', of course.

And they've cut out the line about smoking a fag and putting it out.

But just as Gaz, Mikey and the other one start to see the processed cheese millions roll in, they're going to need the cash: Supergrass are calling it a day.

“Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years," explained the group in a statement. "We still love each other but, cliché notwithstanding, musical differences have led to us moving on and of course we all wish each other well in the future."

It's not many bands who are honest enough to just decide to get out while the going is still good, and Supergrass clearly weren't one of those bands - not much they've done for the last seven years of a 17 year career has been that memorable, and while nobody would wish them ill, calling it a day now is probably for the best.

'Now', that is, being 'after one last farewell tour'.

Bitter Pills so sweet to swallow: 22-20s return

Nobody was more upset than this household when the 22-20s called it a day. Four years ago now, that was.

But they're back. Not in a reunion style; this is more a Battlestar Galactica-type re-imagining of the original concept. They've been testing a new line-up and a new sound under a false name (okay, one part John The Deluded Kidnapping Teacher to three parts Battlestar Galactica), the Bitter Pills.

Now, though, they're breaking cover. There's a free ep to download off of the website, and a US tour, alongside Band Of Skulls and The Whigs:

31-Mar WED New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
1-Apr THU Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg
2-Apr FRI Philadelphia, PA North Star Bar
3-Apr SAT Allston, MA Harper's Ferry
4-Apr SUN Baltimore, MD Ottobar
6-Apr TUE Lexington, KY Cosmic Charlie’s
7-Apr WED Nashville, TN Exit/In
8-Apr THU Athens, GA 40 Watt Club
10-Apr SAT Birmingham, AL WorkPlay Theatre
12-Apr MON Kansas City, MO Riot Room
13-Apr TUE Boulder, CO Boulder Theatre
15-Apr THU Scottsdale, AZ Martini Ranch
16 Apr Fri Los Angeles, CA Echo
19-Apr MON San Francisco, CA Rickshaw Stop
20-Apr TUE Portland, OR Doug Fir Lounge
22-Apr THU Seattle, WA Crocodile Café

They're back, back, back, etcetera.

Gordon in the morning: Scrappy Dappy do

N-Dubz have got themselves in more bother:

JUST days after I warned N-DUBZ to keep their wits about them, DAPPY is involved in a "code red".

Isn't asking N-Dubz to keep their wits about them a bit like asking McDonalds to ready their best chefs?

It turns out this 'code red' is a bit of a scuffle in Manchester. It's headlined "Dappy Knife Scare", but the detail is slightly less clear:
A group of guys approached the bobble hat-wearing star and began shouting and pushing him around.

Within seconds the situation turned really sinister.

An eye-witness said: "A bloke waltzed straight up to Dappy and started going off in his face.

"It all happened so quickly. There was a huge fight. The main guy had a knife."

That's bad, of course, but it's interestingly phrased - "the main guy had a knife" is not quite "... which he was waving around" or "...and threatened to make Dappy silly string."

Gordon Smart is so shocked by all this that he turns into a Daily Mail leader:
It's a shame I know, but that's the way it is.

Still, there's no situation so terrible that the atmosphere can't be lightened with a pun:
A source added: "The scrap was an eye-opener for them."

I bet.

It could have ended up being an eye-out for Dappy.

How lucky that the "source" said "eye-opener" rather than, say, "a wake-up call", otherwise Smart would have been flapping: "it could have been... erm, goodnight forever... look, could you say it was an eye-opener?"

[UPDATE: the Mirror has the same story, except far from having a knife, the bloke was carrying a bottle. "Menacingly", reckons the Mirror, but there's no sign of a knife.]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What the pop papers say: NME reborn

So, that new-look NME in more-or-less full, then. It's probably the least-worst redesign the title has had since it abandoned newsprint, which is something.

I could have done without the ten cover stunt; it seemed rather a weak statement to use for your relaunch issue and really passed without anyone much noticing. As I said earlier in the week, the choices for the covers were spread from the somewhat surprising to the godawfully predictable; as random chance would have it, the postman stuck Kasabian through my letterbox on Wednesday. Kasabian.

The theme of the issue - what is the state of music today - felt like a big idea that never quite made the leap from the flipchart to the magazine. Perhaps partly because the only people they asked were people who'd make a decent front cover. It would have been nice to have heard from, say, Guy Hands, or Sharkey, or maybe even Gennaro Castaldo. But that would have reduced the number of covers they could have done.

To make matters worse, the people they did talk to weren't that much use. Jack White just moaned about the internet for the whole length of his interview, and Ben Swank never really made any attempt to examine his moans:

-Who or what is the enemy of music right now?
The internet. The internet. Your mom, and the internet.

There are a million follow-up questions that suggest themselves to that - like, perhaps 'oh, don't be such a twizzler, the internet isn't even sentient, and isn't something that allows people to discover new bands and old bands without having to wait for permission a great thing - oh, unless you're worried that the kids might discover acts you were planning to 'introduce' to them through a collaboration before you tell them it's okay to like them'. But none are asked. It seems the NME team have gone out with a questionnaire on a clipboard, like kids running round the Science Museum on a school trip, which strangles any hope of getting a discussion.

The rules the allow Swank to ask if we should all accept that recorded music has to be free - which is a rotten question, managing to be both leading and closed at the same time. White answers it with a lousy response - something along the lines of 'why don't we all sneak into the cinema', which utterly misses the point. You can put a door on a cinema in a way that you can't with a file on the internet.

The Rihanna piece is unintentionally hilarious - asked how artists can take back control from the "machine of the music industry", Rihanna reveals:
"After the first two albums I just said 'I'm ready to do it my way, completely'. So a couple of us went into the studio, cut my hair, died [sic] it black."

I'm pretty certain The Clash included a line about that in Complete Control.

Away from the main pieces, there's a pleasing sense of revivalism about the 'new' NME - the words New Musical Express have been restored to the front page (I'm pretty certain they never appeared anywhere in the previous incarnation); 'Tracks' has reverted to being 'Singles' (and with a guest reviewer, too - although that's a bit more Record Mirror than NME). There's even Anthony Thornton writing about The Libertines - although I'm not entirely convinced by the argument that they had to revive now, because if they did it next year it would look like a tenth anniversary cash-in.

Archive-raiding snatches the best bits from an old copy chosen, it seems, more or less at random: they've started with 1974, and a Syd Barrett cover:
"The next time Syd's face would grace the cover of the NME would be in July 2006, a few days after his death."

And there's a cartoon. A three panel strip cartoon. Which is funnier than The Lone Groover. Okay, everything is funnier than the Lone Groover, but still. It's a lovely thing to do.

On the downside: somebody dropped Trevor Hungerford's name from the crossword. And it's headlined "the legendary NME crossword", which is a bit like introducing yourself as "I am the famous Mr Osborne". There is the same byline drawing, though, which is wonderful - a design element which dates back, ooh, at least to Danny Kelly's stewardship, surely.

The fonts are all over the place - a serif over here, all block sans-serif caps over there, a dreadful thing that looks like it was designed by a guy down the market trying to have a go at the Rolling Stone masthead style scattered across the pages.

On the offer of a free mixtape to download, there's the bemusing small print "one zip file per person" - what possible problem would be cause if someone downloaded the files twice? Would Feargal Sharkey die?

Next week: it's another list issue: the greatest lyrics ever. Coming so soon after the biggest cult artists (or was it cultiest big artists?), this 'state of music' one and all the other list issues, there's a horrible sense that the editorial is nowadays consisting solely of threads lifted from ilx. The new design has fixed a few holes in the vessel; but there needs to be some freight weightier than pub arguments to make it worth putting to sea.

6Music: Telegraph claims survival plans exist

There's three possibilities that might explain the Telegraph's story that 6Music will become Radio 2 Extra and, thus, be saved in some form.

One: It's a mixture of guesswork and wishful thinking, based partly on suggestions that have been floating about the internet.

Two: Their unnamed 'corporation insiders' are on the money, and a face-saving compromise is on the cards.

Three - And this one is the conspiracy theory: The BBC are trying to plant the idea that 6 will remain in some sort of form, in order to relax a lot of the crowds baying for Mark Thompson's blood. If it can quieten down the protests, it'll be so much easier to put the pillow over the network's face.

Let's hope it's number two - but until you see listings for 2Extra in the Radio Times, don't let your guard down.

Malcolm McClaren: 'Killed by shopfittings'

Young KIm has suggested that Malcolm McClaren might have been the unwitting author of his own demise. It's all down to the interior decoration of Sex:

"When Malcolm created Sex he broke open the ceiling to make it look like a bomb had hit it", said Kim. "I always suspected that shop because it was the only place Malcolm ever really spent any serious length of time in, and there was a lot of construction and changing things. Then Ben Westwood said his mother had mentioned that she'd seen asbestos there. It was board asbestos and it was in the early Seventies so there was a lot of it left, and I don't think anyone really did anything about it."

His partner also rails against a Harley Street doctor who, she claims, failed to investigate the first signs of cancer properly; she's suggesting she might push for an investigation.

Susan Boyle: What you wish for

Woman at end of long journey gets upset and swears when told her flight is delayed. That's what today's Sunday Mirror leads with. If only there was an election or something on that could have provided them with a proper news story.

The report is, nevertheless, interesting, but not for the story over the headline; more or less by accident the Mirror has detailed just how the microindustry around Boyle is swirling about, treating her not unlike the way Britain was handling the space whale in last night's Doctor Who:

But behind the scenes, the five-day trip was marked by verbal warfare between Susan and Joanne, 38, daughter of Susan’s sister ­Bridie.

Joanne was appointed as Susan’s PA and Girl Friday last October in the hope that a familiar face by her side would help curb her volatile temper.

But relations between the two women – said by sources to have never been particularly close – have rapidly deteriorated. Fuelling the acrimony in Team SuBo is the fact that different parts of her management team are now in dispute with each other about the day-to-day running of her career and her future strategy.

The fear must be that one half of the management are keen to push her to do as much as she quickly can before she collapses entirely, while the other is hoping a bit of a rest will keep the goose laying eggs for a few more years.

The wisdom of the internet, you'll remember, is that people who suggested it might have been better for her to have steered well clear of Cowell were meant to be the cruel ones.

Bookmarks - Internet stuff: Professionalism

Carrie Brownstein's Monitor Mix considers the demands for bands to be professional - interesting to read in the light of Feargal Sharkey et al's suggestions that no music exists beyond or without the music industry:

Furthermore, the Internet, with its countless blogs and critics that cater to the general and the highly specific, has diluted the cultural relevance of music magazines. Appearing in a major music magazine used to draw a line in the sand between big bands and little bands, significance and insignificance, legitimacy and illegitimacy. Now, without a center, or a singular or cohesive cultural influence, nearly all music exists in the same stretched-out elastic sphere. Consequently, the very notion of "professionalism" has transformed. Everyone's a professional.

The illustrated Hello: Fred Astaire

He danced on air, claimed Madonna in Vogue. He was a bit like Lionel Blair, but American, and without the game show sideline. Teenagers! Come back! Surely you know who Lionel Blair is... hello? Teenagers?

[Part of The Illustrated Hello]

The illustrated Hello: Fred Flinstone

Flintstones *cough* meet the Flintstones *cough cough* you'll have a yabba... look, would it be okay if we open the window?

Ah, yes, Fred Flinstone. Between you and me, he was only a drawing that moved. Not a real person at all. After all, who would be as foolish as to try and take Fred Flintstone and turn him into a real person?


[Buy: Flintstones: Season One]

[Part of the Illustrated Hello]

This week just gone

What did people want to read on Easter Sunday?

1. Yes, people still trying to see the R Kelly video
2. Dan Wootton meets Lee Ryan
3. Googlers after a McFly's penises
4. Jedward plot 'amusing' Shake n Vac advert comeback
5. Adam Lambert pretends to be surprised at outrage over pretend oral sex on stage
6. The Illustrated Hello - thank god someone's reading it, as long as it's dragging on
7. Black Francis shares his thoughts
8. Downloadable: The Karen Cooper Complex
9. Rather than erect a paywall, The Sun simply turns its news pages over to promoting JLS
10. Downloadable: Hot Chip with Bonnie Prince Billy

These were this week's interesting things:

Peggy Sue - Fossils & Other Phantoms

Download Fossils & Other Phantoms

David Byrne & Fatboy Slim - Here Lies Love

Download Here Lies Love

Various - Deutsche Elektronische Musik

She And Him - Volume Two

Download Volume Two

Jonsi - Go

Download Go

Black Francis - Nonstoperotik

Download Nostoperotik

Harper Simon - Harper Simon

Download Harper Simon

The Triffids - Wide Open Road (Best Of)

Download Wide Open Road

The Doves - The Places Between (Best Of)

Download The Places Between