Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bookmarks - Internet stuff: Probe

Anyone with ears who ever spent time in Liverpool will appreciate Out On Blue Six's piece about Probe:

In the early nineties, Probe moved from that record-swamped corridor to marginally roomier premises almost the entire length of the city centre away (and, hilariously, some utter lunatics were heard to grumble that the new look-venue, with its pesky ‘windows’, was too swanky and corporate and actually meant it), and today, to a surprising but deserved flurry of media excitement, it moved again, to somewhere literally between the two.
Yes, it's true - Probe has moved from the Palace to the Bluecoat. Doubtless the old store will become a shop selling overpriced trousers.

I'm not going to trade on being Chris Martin's sister, says Chris Martin's sister

It's impressive that Nicola Martin is determined to make her acting career on her own without any help from being the sister-of-the-more-famous-Chris. But just how many actors working in pubs without connections get profiled by the Daily Telepgraph, exactly?

Synthobit: Charles Haddon

Confused and sad news coming from Belguim this morning, with reports of the death of Charles Haddon.

Haddon was lead singer with Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, Camden-based, La Roux-supporting, synth-loving popstars. They would claim in interview that they were more influenced by Falco than the Pet Shop Boys, but there was always a sense when the band were talking about themselves that they might not be entirely embracing the truth.

The cirumstances of Haddon's reported death backstage at the Pukkelpop Festival are reported by Side-Line News:

The first rumours said that keyboard player Joel Hutchinson had committed suicide. Hutchinson had jumped into the public during the last song "Dance the way I feel" landing on a girl that had to be taken to hospital. But then it became clear that singer Charles Haddon was the one who had died. The band seemed very distresed after that incident and had asked the boyfriend of the victim to pass on all necessary contact details in order to arrange a financial compensation if needed. It's not sure if this had anything to do with Haddon's act a few moments later.
There has been no official statement on Haddon's death. The band's debut album, Christ Died For Our Synths, is due for release in October this year.

[Thanks to @jamesthegill]

The Kings Of Leon: Punch the clock

Blimey, the process of making a Kings Of Leon album sounds just crazy:

"It was kind of a depressing experience. If we'd made it is Nashville, we'd be out playing basketball or goofing off. Here, I'd wake up and hail a cab to the studio, then spend 12 hours a day in a room with no windows.

"It felt like we were going to the office. But that can be good as well as bad."
You know what, when someone says 'buy my record, made in depressing circumstances in a windowless room which made us feel like we were salarymen', I can barely stop myself from hailing a cab to fly down to HMV.

Downloadable: Salli Lunn

I was going to spend some time trying to work something up out of Sally Lunn being rhyming slang for a bun, and them coming from Denmark, home of the pastries, but... in the end I decided not to.

Instead, let's just meet them: They describe themselves as Dreampop, but there's something a bit more industrial about them than that would suggest. Steel toe-capped shoegazing?

Alright, alright: Just try them. This is The First Cause - Salli Lunn.

[More: Salli Lunn on MySpace]

Gordon in the morning: Head for the shelters, everyone

Once in a while, Gordon Smart has some important information:

JAMIROQUAI have signed a new deal with Mercury Records and will release album Rock Dust Light Star in November.
There's no date for the release, but I figure we have a good two months to dig the holes and fill the sandbags.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Madonna offered ridiculous money to fast-forward career to obvious conclusion

Clearly, claims that Madonna has been offered a billion dollars to do a five year Las Vegas residency are based on deciding the deal must be worth a lot, and then rounding up like a sheepdog on cocaine. But there does appear to be an offer on the table.

If it helps, we're happy to chip in a tenner to make sure she goes and spends the next five years in the Nevada desert. We'll go to fifteen if she promises to not do a DVD of it.

Is that a tear in your eye, Louis Walsh?

Like a man sobbing as he throws kittens down the well, Louis Walsh regrets having to let Shayne Ward go:

"I thought Shayne had the X factor," Walsh told the Daily Mail. "I thought he ticked every single box. He had the looks, the talent, the ability, the attitude and the ambition. I believed in him 100%.

"I gave blood, sweat and tears in working with him - I absolutely did. Then there was no record, it all dried up."

He continued: "There was nothing I could do at all. My hands were tied. I only wish him the best because I think he's a great guy. But I reluctantly had to let him go."
Yes, what could Louis do? He believed so wholeheartedly in Shayne, and yet there was no single. It's not like Louis was Ward's manager or anything, was it? He wasn't the man responsible for Ward's career and the person whose job it was to ensure the record got released, right?

Oh, really?

Still, Ward is still notionally signed to Syco, and has a new manager, Alan Edwards:
"I'm not surprised that Simon has not dropped Shayne because he really is a great singer," Edwards told the paper. "When he offered to play me some of his new tracks, he blew me away.

"I presumed it would be formulaic music, but it was very free feeling. I know Shayne's fans have missed him but music is art - it can't be rushed. I think that a bit of time between now and his last album could be an advantage - it puts a bit of distance between him and the show."
Brilliant - Shayne's now got a manager who believes he has the X Factor, and who is convinced that he has the talent to succeed. Again. What could go wrong? This time?

Wyclef Jean: He's Haiti's Obama

And we use "Haiti's Obama" in the sense of 'being challenged to prove he actually is a citizen and thus eligible for the Presidency'.

Of course, Obama's "birthers" were half-crazed, half-deluded twits; those suggesting Jean is ineligible have a bit more heft to them:

By late Thursday, lawyers for the Provisional Electoral Council had compiled 20 pages of legal documents -- including passport records -- that they said show Jean is not a Haitian resident.
Jean, as is his style, is waving this all aside with claims that the paperwork is all pretty solid and there's no need to worry that anything might be wrong.

Bringing exactly the same approach he used for his charity paperwork, then. What could go wrong?

Comes With Music now comes without Nokia brand

Comes With Music - you remember, it killed iTunes a couple of years back - is no longer going to be branded with Nokia. They're lobbing it under the Ovi brand, instead.

The Register rightly snorts at the move here:

A spokesperson explained the move:

"The new name is also simpler for music fans around the world to understand, and when presented in local language, will better communicate our truly local service proposition in each market. In doing so, we are giving our users a simplified, Ovi-branded experience."

Quite right.

People often ask, "What's a Nokia? - is it some new kind of yoga or a fashionable new diet?" Then you remind them - it's the platform for the Ovi mobile services experience - and the fog of confusion quickly clears.
Nokia had previously had some fun branding a service that only allowed you to download a certain, unknown amount of music as "unlimited" on the basis that it was unlimited, until you hit the limit.

My nights with Robbie Williams

If you can get past the strangeness of someone who is now married to Sir Clive Sinclair having once been Robbie Williams' girlfriend, there's much to - well, not quite enjoy, more absorb in Angie Bowness' tale of being Robbie's sort-of girlfriend.

His chat-up technique was to deliberately step on her foot:

He made a point of telling me he wasn't drinking alcohol and said he hardly ever went out to parties because he suffered panic attacks. Then he started talking about feeling 'socially inadequate'.
It's funny he should feel like that, given that he then suggested they slip away and instructed his bodyguard, Duncan, to get Angie's phone number. Summoned a few minutes later, she made her way to Williams flat, where he seemed to be living under the misapprehension that he was James Stewart:
Likewise, there was a giant telescope standing in one window.

But Robbie wasn't half as interested in stargazing as he was in the ordinary lives going on around him. He called me over and asked me to look through the lens. It was focused on the window of a flat across the river.

Inside, a couple were talking and, while I watched, Robbie started telling me the life story he'd imagined for them. Their names, their jobs, where they met, the things they argued about. He'd thought of everything.

He knew it was crazy, but he said he 'knew' a lot of his neighbours this way. God only knows what these people would have thought if they had known that Robbie Williams spied on them.
I think we can guess, can't we?

On a second date - after Duncan had more or less passed Williams like a baton to her, he invited her to spend the evening opening his fan mail.

It's all a bit of an odd story, and a sad one. It ends with what may very well be a raised eyebrow:
I wondered if it would ever work out for Robbie at all. I was beyond shocked when I heard he had got married. I thought he was destined to be a bachelor.

I wish him well and hope this relationship works out for him. But deep down I wonder what it is he wants from a woman. I can only hope the new Mrs Williams has worked that one out.
There's no explanation of how you move from dating the man who made Rudebox to being married to the guy who came up with Microdrives, which is a pity.

Gordon in the morning: We're all in this together

It's a time of tightened budgets and headcount culls, and even the Beckhams are feeling the pinch. They're doing the sackings part, obviously:

THE Beckhams have culled their staff by a third after a horrified accountant warned: "You're pouring money down the drain."
Richard White, a lowly showbiz reporter, has the details:
Victoria called in the money expert to overhaul their finances because she feared the high-spending lifestyle was inappropriate at a time when ordinary people are tightening their belts.
Ah, that's so sweet; knowing people are finding it hard to get by she's decided to make a load of people unemployed, despite still being a multimillionaire. That's really sharing in the pain.
A friend said: "This very no-nonsense accountant gave it to Vic straight and said, 'You CAN afford to employ all of these people. But why the hell DO you?'"
So, really, this is less a story of the Beckhams feeling the pinch, and more about rich people clinging on to even more money they don't actually need.

A heartwarming tale of our times.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

British Council holds party with dodgy radio station

The British Council is a great thing, and supporting culture around the world is a noble endeavour.

It's just a pity they can't be more careful, though: Unzipped reports they've been supporting Radio Van:

The British Council Armenia and Radio Van are happy to announce the launch of The Selector radio programme in Armenia. We are having a big party to mark this occasion and you are invited!
Radio Van? Unzipped has written of them before:
Apparently, ladies and gentlemen, the head of Radio Van - Shushanik - was a closeted homophobe who comes out with blogging. She could not stand that her beloved Spain has transformed into a society of free minded people with laws that give gay men and women equal rights similar to heterosexuals, including that of marriage.

Back home in Yerevan, she started seeing gays everywhere - in cafes, streets, airports... Oh, but she forgot to look at her immediate surrounding. She could have been ‘pleasantly’ surprised.

Shushanik got so carried away by hate that she “absolutely agree” - in determination to exterminate gays - with an Armenian neo-nazi who uses swastika as his livejournal userpic. This is perhaps one of the most disgraceful exchange of comments I have ever seen in Armenian media. On one side is a neo-nazi, on the other side - head of radio station saying ‘’I absolutely agree with you” to a... neo-nazi.
The British Council's response when challenged by Unzipped? It missed the point a little, and patted him on the head:
“The British Council values Equality and Diversity and aims to establish cooperation with individuals and organisations representing the diversity of Armenia and the world. We also respect the freedom of expression and the diversity of views, at the same time we always do our best to promote our values of Equality and Diversity among our partners and beneficiaries and to ensure that no discrimination occurs in the framework of our partnership initiatives and all the project stakeholders are treated with respect. In regard to this particular project, we would like to stress that this partnership has its history since 2003 when The Selector was being broadcast by RadioVan. Moreover this is a true non-commercial partnership thanks to which it has been possible to revive the Selector in Armenia and bring our audiences the best of British music as we believe that Art is one of the most powerful media for establishing intercultural dialogue and promoting positive social change. We do hope that you will enjoy this initiative and that it will help us strengthen the links between Armenia and the UK."
You'd hope the correct response to 'why are you co-hosting a party with a radio station whose management thinks executing gay people is a good idea' would have been something other than 'hey, we've been doing the show since 2003, enjoy the show'.

Hugely disappointing. The Selector is a great programme and the kind of thing the British Council should be doing. It should just take a bit more care who it partners with.

Downloadable: All My Friends & Oh No Yoko

Either that, or Megan Fox has recorded a single called All My Friends And Oh No Yoko. Which, I fear, nobody would try to talk her out of doing. Download it for free over on Bandcamp.

Prince Harry: He's like the Simon Cowell of aristocrats

Say what you like about The X Factor and all the other programmes that ape The X Factor, but at least they offer a chance to people into a field of human endeavour where success is too often based on who your parents are, rather than what you can do.

Isn't that right, I Blame CoCo?

So, the TV talent show: the last bastion of merit over inheritance. Sort-of merit.

There's something we can celebrate, right.

Hang on, What's this?

Prince Harry to host new British musical talent show
Harry? Seriously?

What's he bring to the table? "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" "You instruct your father's driver to take you there."

Naturally, he isn't really hosting - the surprisingly named Linda Gentile pulls back from the headline almost straight away:
Today, August 18, it was announced that Prince Harry will be a guest of honor on a new TV series for BBC.
Ah, so hosting and guest of honour. Tell me, Ms Gentile - in your official role as "British Royal Family Examiner" - what will he actually be doing?
Prince Harry's and Goldie's show will go through Britain, looking for people who've had to overcome deep challenges. It will show later this year. The prince will choose 12 young people for a three day residential workshop, where they'll be mentored by musical experts such as Guy Chambers and Cerys Matthews.

The idea is to put together a performance for the prince and audience of invited guests at Buckingham Palace.
The British Royal Family Examiner? Does that have a ceremonial dress? Is it a medical thing, or an educational examiner? I hope it's not educational, as that would mean your main job would be going "well... there might be a lot of fails, there, but luckily your job only requires passing a DNA test. Don't look so paniced, your highness, I'm only joking about the DNA test."

Anyway, it turns out that from hosting the show, to guesting on it, Harry's role will be sitting around at the end, watching the winner and applauding quietly. On this basis, doesn't this mean The Queen hosts Britain's Got Talent?

Gordon in the morning: What's the buzz?

This morning, Gordon has cleared his pages to make way for... well: can you guess?

Jesus Christ Hoofer Stars
Yes, the big scoop is, erm, photos promoting Jesus Christ Superstar when Derek Hough was in it.

There's really nothing much to say, so Gordon just copies some stuff from the programme and runs that as if it was somehow reporting.
Del-boy trousered little in the way of cash during his tenure at the 350-capacity playhouse near Tottenham - tickets were a mere £5.50 a pop.
"Surprisingly, the promotional material for the event was printed locally - by Aardvark Print in Charlotte Street; a world away from Wapping where this material would be recycled even more cheaply a few years later..."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ringo Starr's house is coming down

You know, I might have given the impression over the last few years that I believed the "saving" of Ringo Starr's house by Flo Clucas wasn't really ever going to happen.

To be honest, the thought occurred to me more than once that the "decision" to rebuild Ringo's house in a museum was little more than a way of getting the Beatles fans battling to save the houses in Madryn Street to shut up and let the council get on with the demolition. After all, there were plenty of people who were saying the buildings didn't really need to come down. There were underwater rivers which caused damp problems, but those same rivers ran beneath more expensive properties in Aigburth and, strangely, they were solved there without the destruction of those houses. And Urban Splash were demonstrating elsewhere that Victorian terraces were so well built, you could turn them into modern homes with less financial investment and a much greener approach. Having a Beatles house in the mix, too, might scupper the bid to flatten an area and hand it over to developers. So saying 'oh, we'll save the house' was an easy way to head off any international campaign to stop a lucrative but wasteful destruction of 427 buildings. And then you just quietly knock the house down anyway. That thought. That's the one that had occurred to me.

Especially a couple of years later, when it turned out when Flo Clucas was telling the press about the plans to save the house that she wasn't really talking as a councillor.

Imagine our surprise, then, to discover that the thought wasn't a million miles wrong:

When asked if he thought there was any merit to saving Starr’s house, Liverpool council leader Cllr Joe Anderson said: “My own personal view is no.

“If it was next door to Paul McCartney’s house or something you could make the argument, but given that it’s stuck in the middle of a block of terraces that have to be demolished, that has to be taken into account.”

A Museums Liverpool spokesman said discussions about saving the house “were some time ago, and we are unaware of any current plans for the house.”
That's funny, that. I hate to keep banging on about the email Clucas sent to us in January 2006, but it's worth repeating:
The exisiting houses, according to English Heritage, are of no historical significance and we have been asked to supply only photographs of the properties before demolition. Number 9 Madryn Street does , however, have a cultural significance, Although that the house where Ringo spent most of his life in Liverpool is only a few minutes distance from Madryn Street, is still occupied and will remain so for many years yet, we have endeavoured to find a new home for this, his early years home. This has been done.
That was sent from her council account, as an official response to my questions about Starr's house.

Clearly, the finding of a new home for 9 Madryn Street has been done - it's going to be in a pile of bricks in a skip next to Madryn Street. Well done, everybody.

What's puzzling, though, is what has happened to reverse the council's position (again) from the house being of cultural significance to being of none?

None of this should come as a surprise, though, from the Liverpool Town Hall team, who have spent the last few years trying to remove the last few bits of the city that Thatcher and Hatton had left intact. It's only a couple of months since they ripped up the cobbles at a World Heritage Site to make room for some tarmac.

Anyone who has walked around Anfield in the last couple of years knows that there's no respect for the built environment in the city of Liverpool. It's a miracle they're not knocking down Lennon's house to make way for a road.

[Thanks to James M for the tip]

Bono's friends: How to save the music industry

This should be interesting. Paul McGuinness, manager of Dutch-for-tax-purposes band U2, has decided to tell us, via the medium of GQ, how to save the music industry.

Let's not dismiss him out of hand, eh? Let's listen to what the man has to say.

How to save the Music Industry
By Paul McGuinness
Actually, you know what. Let's do a spot of dismissing out of hand. Because that heading is just packed-full of assumptions, isn't it? It assumes that there's a Music Industry which needs saving. That's worth saving. That what McGuinness thinks of as the Music Industry - which must include filing tax returns in a way that reduces your contribution to society to the minimum; filling trucks full of equipment and driving them to sports stadia; a record an album, tour an album structure - is desirable and sustainable and in some how "saveable".

Sorry. You were saying, Paul?
Even after three decades managing the world's biggest rock band...
Wow. I think I know a thing or two about music, and I had no idea that Paul McGuinness managed The Rolling Stones as well as U2.

Oh. Really? He meant... Oh.
I have a lifetime hero as far from the world of U2 as you could ever get.
Thinking, thinking. Someone humble and who didn't collapse into lucrative self-parody after the third album?

Or do you mean that person who had Bono's trousers? Presumably, after the court case and all, they're quite estranged.
He was a feisty 19th-century composer of light orchestral music. His name was Ernest Bourget.
Oh. Midmarket composer whose music mostly worked as background and who is remembered nowadays for kicking up a fuss about copyright. McGuinness fills in the tale:
It was Bourget who in 1847, while enjoying a meal in a Paris restaurant, suddenly heard the orchestra playing one of his own compositions. He was startled - of course he had not been paid or asked permission for this. So he resolved the problem himself: he walked out of the restaurant without paying his bill.
Aha. So doing a runner from a restaurant is a noble act - providing it's done in the name of copyright reform. Never mind that - in this story - Bourget hasn't actually ended up financially worse off, at worst losing potential earnings, but he has eaten real food, bought by the restaurant, cooked by people, served by people. All of those have made an actual loss.

Even when talking about 1847, the current music industry can't understand the vital difference between stealing a thing and an unlicensed performance.

Bourget was in the same financial position as when he went into the restaurant; the restaurant wasn't.

Paul McGuinness' big hero is a highly strung thief.
Bourget's action was a milestone in the history of copyright law. The legal wrangling that followed led to the establishment of the first revenue-collection system for composers and musicians. The modern music industry has a lot to thank him for.
While the rest of us might have a few issues.

Interestingly, you'll hear from the upper floors of record labels and collection agencies the claim that if there's no copyright law, there will be no music. And yet, as McGuinness has just demonstrated, there was music before there was copyright law, and some people were doing well enough to dine out on their earnings.

Assuming Bourget wasn't always going to do a runner. Maybe as he was flouncing out the door, he was thinking "that's a bit of luck, I was going to have to do the 'there's a pubic hair in my gravy' routine if they'd not played my song."
I was thinking of Ernest Bourget on a January day two years ago when, in front of some of the world's best-known music managers gathered in a conference hall in the seafront Palais de Festivals in Cannes, I plunged into the raging debate about internet piracy and the future of music.
An industry which has its gatherings in the South Of France while pleading impending poverty might be considered to be taking the piss a little.
I had been invited to speak by the organisers of the Midem Music Convention - the "Davos" of the music industry - where, along the corridors, in the cafes and under the palm trees, the music industry's great and good debated the Big Question that dominates our business today: how are we going to fund its future?
Here's a clue: don't waste your money sending executives on expensive beanos; try investing in bands instead.

Just as a sidebar, the only thing more sickening than someone using the phrase "the great and the good" is when that person is describing a group of which he is a member.
My message was quite simple - and remains so today.
Oh, good. I was afraid it might have been in Latin.
We are living in an era when "free" is decimating the music industry and is starting to do the same to film, TV and books.
Decimating, you say? Just removing one-tenth of the industry, then? That's pretty good news, as a lot of people were predicting it might do some major damage.

Unless you don't actually know what "decimate" means.
Yet for the world's internet service providers, bloated by years of broadband growth, "free music" has become a multi-billion dollar bonanza.
No it hasn't, as their business is hooking people up to the internet. Indeed, the more people download more 'free music' (or paid for, actually), the worse it is for them, as increased traffic costs them.

McGuinness could be suggesting that without the chance to get unlicensed music, nobody would have bothered to get an internet connection, and thus it's this bonanza which has created their customer base.

I'm sure he isn't just assuming this to be the case, and has weighed all the other possible drivers - the iPlayer, YouTube videos of how to cook cakes, the ability to surf while making a phone call, broadband allowing more than one person to check their email at once in a household, working from home, doing school projects, Skype and eBay and Amazon and iTunes and blogging and remotely watching Old Faithful blow - and decided that, nope, if there was no unlicensed music on the net, nobody would bother.
What has gone so wrong?
Well, firstly, Paul, you've made the classic mistake of assuming what matters to you is the vital part of the puzzle, then you've started to tell us your industry has been undermined while telling us about your expense-account jaunt to France... oh, you didn't mean that, did you?
And what can be done now to put it to right?
I'm sure in the original version, 'put it right' did appear correctly as 'cling to the status quo that a very few of us have been doing nicely out of'.

Paul tells us that he was "amazed" when the speech was picked up and bounced around the world. Why does he think that happened?
Well-known artists very seldom speak out on piracy. There are several reasons for this. It isn't seen as cool or attractive to their fans - Lars Ulrich from Metallica was savaged when he criticised Napster. Other famous artists sometimes understandably feel too rich and too successful to be able to speak out on the issue without being embarrassed.
Or perhaps they thought "well, it's been a nice run, but clearly it was never going to go on forever."

But McGuinness thinks there might be another problem: Badgers.

Oh, sorry, bloggers. Not badgers:
Then there is the backlash from the bloggers - those anonymous gremlins who wait to send off their next salvo of bilious four-letter abuse whenever a well-known artist sticks their head above the parapet. When Lily Allen recently posted some thoughtful comments about how illegal file-sharing is hurting new developing acts, she was ravaged by the online mob and withdrew from the debate.
Sure, there are some people online who behave like utter arses - although, here's a funny thing, Paul, most bloggers also suffer from the abuse brigands. Because what you've done there is lazily characterise everyone who writes and engages online as being boorish louts.

The thing that drove Lily Allen to withdraw was not mindless abuse, but the sudden swamping of her simplistic viewpoints by mostly well-reasoned argument.

Likewise, most of the reactions I saw to your simplistic bout of special pleading were measured and, while mocking, an attempt to engage and debate.

Jesus, it must have been a very, very long time since anyone ever told you they disagreed with you if your reaction is to just bellow 'look at these BLOGGERS with their TIRADES'.

Of course, then Bono stepped in:
he wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times in January and he pulled no punches. "A decade's worth of music file sharing and swiping has made clear the people it hurts are the creators... and the people this reverse Robin-Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business." Bono is a guy who, when he decides to support a cause, does so with enormous passion. But even he was amazed by the backlash when he was mauled by the online crowd.
Yes, there he was writing something that is controversial - he must have known that the 'look, we're getting nowhere chasing people who own computers, so let's harry the people who own the telegraph poles' line was controversial, right? - Bono's being controversial, and he's amazed that people responded?

Note, by the way, the characterisation of 'disagreement' as a 'backlash'. To be an actual backlash, you'd have had to have had a frontlash, and I don't recall anyone ever saying 'that Bono has the right idea about filesharing' in the front place.

The reaction might have been a lashing, but simply because people are telling you you're wrong doesn't make them wrong.

Something a lot of people are interested in generating a noisy debate online. And Bono and Paul are surprised.

These people really, really don't understand the internet at all, do they?

In fact, it's almost as if they're willfully reveling in their ignorance:
You have to ask how these inchoate, abusive voices are helping shape the debate about the future of music.
You might also ask how a bunch of out-of-touch, middle-aged (mainly) men swilling back cocktails on the shareholders' pound in the South Of France, dismissing any attempt at debate as "incohate" and "abusive" are doing that, too.
I rarely do news interviews but when I spoke to the influential technology news site CNET last autumn I was set on by a horde of bloggers.
You were not "set on", you silly boy. If you go on CNET, you will be responded to. The bloggers weren't setting themselves on you, they were trying to engage with you.

Except I think you mean commenters, rather than bloggers, but - hey - they're on the end of a computer, so they're all the same thing, right?
One of them was called "Anonymous Coward."
Um... Paul...
I'm not worried about criticism from Anonymous Coward.
Um... you do know that nobody is actually called Anonymous Coward, don't you? You're really not smirkingly pointing at Anonymous Coward and snickering that 'hey, even he himself admits what he is'?

Perhaps when McGuinness sees a letter in the paper from 'Name And Address Supplied' he really thinks there's a Mr. Supplied who has shared his views with the paper.

Still, you're not afraid of a placeholder name. So what's the problem?
But I am worried about how many politicians may be influenced by his rantings.
But you said they were incohate and abusive. What politician would be influenced by "rantings" that were obviously so? Unless, you know, they're not ranting at all, and were actually counter-arguments.

And there are a lot of them saying you're wrong, aren't there? It'd be terrible if politicians started to listen to the majority viewpoint rather than the rich one, wouldn't it. No wonder Mr. A. Coward worries you so.
The level of abuse and sheer nastiness of it was extraordinary. Without Anonymous Coward and his blogosphere friends, I think many artists and musicians would be more upfront about the industry's current predicament.
Really? You don't think that most artists - the vast majority - have been so screwed over by record labels nickel and dime-ing them through recoupment, getting them to sign rotten contracts that only a successful few can ever challenge, dumping them after one album, that perhaps they don't speak up because they'll shed no tears for the people who did them down?

Do you really think that artists are afraid of these incohate bloggers?
They might tell the world what they really feel about people who steal their music.
You're telling us - with a straight face - that musicians are worried sick that their livelihoods are going to disappear, but not saying anything in case someone posts a 'you greedy bastard' on their MySpace page?

You may or may not think everyone blogging is a petty bully, but you clearly think that everyone else is as stupid as a burlap sack shoved full of unsold Cactus World News CDs.

Quite a few musicians do make their views known; others make their opposing views known. Many - knowing that even if some cash is raked off the internet it'll go straight back to Warners head offices - probably don't care much either way.

Still, Paul has identified this cowering massive, and has decided to wade in on their behalf.
It is two years on from my Cannes speech. Some things are better in the music world, but unfortunately the main problem is still just as bad as it ever was. Artists cannot get record deals. Revenues are plummeting. Efforts to provide legal and viable ways of making money from music are being stymied by piracy. The latest figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) shown that 95 per cent of all music downloaded is illegally obtained and unpaid for.
Those two categories aren't the same thing, are they? It is possible to pay for something while still obtaining it without licence, and there are a gazillion ways for a legally-owned track to have become yours without changing hands.

You'll also note that McGuinness doesn't offer any further explanation about this eye-catching figure; probably because it's all guesswork. The actual figure of 95% is for "unauthorized" obtaining of music; the same report paints a balancing, sunny picture of increasing digital sales and a healthy $3.7billion digital market worldwide. Odd that McGuinness leaves that bit out.
Indigenous music industries from Spain to Brazil are collapsing.
Well, if by "indigenous music industries" you mean the bits owned by international conglomerates, the same companies which have buggered up their English-language businesses now getting it wrong in Spanish and Portuguese too. (Of course, the dumping of their English-language acts into foreign territories have also helped this struggle by "indigenous" industries.
An independent study endorsed by trade unions says Europe's creative industries could lose more than a million jobs in the next five years.
Interesting - by which I mean sloppy - that McGuinness didn't actually say what this survey was.

It was Building a Digital Economy: The Importance of Saving Jobs in the EU's Creative Industries and, far from being independent, was put together by a consultant group, Tera, for the International Chambers Of Commerce. The ICC are a self-appointed body who spend most of their time trying to shape legislation to favour their business members around the world. For such a group to publish a 'something must be done, probably with laws' report is about as independent as a news report on Myanmar Tonight.
Maybe the message is finally getting through that this isn't just about fewer limos for rich rock stars.
Yes. It's about multinational corporations. We've always understood that.
Of course this isn't crippling bands like U2 and it would be dishonest to claim it was. I've always believed artists and musicians need to take their business as seriously as their music. U2 understood this. They have carefully pursued careers as performers and songwriters, signed good deals and kept control over their life's work.
Also, U2 make a large chunk of their money from property development anyway. So they're good.
Today, control over their work is exactly what young and developing performers are losing. It is not their fault. It is because of piracy and the way the internet has totally devalued their work.
Funny thing is, there's a lot of artists who love the internet because it allows them to keep control over their work - they don't need to do massive deals with record labels; they're not being forced to sell a million copies and are happy being able to sell a few thousand, and organise gigs and sell their own merchandise which keeps them in funds. Rather than seeing the internet as 'devaluing' their work - how crap is an artist who can only find value when their work is in a pocketbook - it's giving them a chance to change their relationship with their audience.

They don't want saving, and they certainly don't want to be taken back into a time when four international businesses would hold sway over who would be heard, and who would be successful.

By now, McGuinness is only down to the end of page one. He decides it's now time for a bit of history. How did we get here?
It is facile to blame record companies.
Yes, can you think of anything more facile than blaming a business for its own failure?
Whoever those old Canutes were, the executives who wanted to defend an old business model rather than embrace a new one, they left the business long ago.

Let's take, at random, Universal.

Their CEO is Doug Morris, who has held the top spot since 1995. To be fair, Morris is stepping down next year; his replacement will be Lucian Grainge. He's been the CEO of Universal in the UK since 2001.

Over at Sony, Rolf Schmidt-Holtz has held senior positions in the company since the last decade of the old century.

It's funny, that with so many of the comfiest seats in the Music Industry being held by bottoms which sat in place during the Napster wars, that it turns out all the Canutes have "long since left the industry".

(By the way, Paul - Canute wasn't trying to turn the waves back, he was trying to show his acolytes that he couldn't. If the Canutes have left the music industry, it would be the ones who tried to tell their boards there was no way to stop the digital tide coming in, and failed.)
Last year, more than a quarter of all the music purchased globally was sold via the internet and mobile phones. The record companies know they have to monetise the internet or they will not survive.
Yes. I think we remember how excited all the labels were at the prospect of selling online.

Perhaps Paul doesn't realise that the internet has old articles on it? Maybe he thinks we can't check.

He then suggests "free" is the problem:
Today, "free" is still the creative industries' biggest problem.
In America there are no more Tower Records or Virgin records stores and many independent stores are just about hanging on. Consumers now buy CDs in a bookstore such as Barnes & Noble or Borders.
Eh? Surely the decline of the bricks and mortar stores isn't anything to do with free - or not so much - as the undercutting by businesses like Target and Tesco, and online stores like Amazon. Plus a couple of terrible business deals on location and financing of their businesses.

And did he just suggest that Barnes And Noble's lovingly presented racks of CD are a problem rather than an opportunity? "No wonder we're in trouble, people bought our product in a new location." What?

Things are changing, though, says Paul:
Today we take a far more sober view as we see what damage "free" has done to the creative industries, above all to music.
Yes, you won't get anyone like the music company Downtown launching a service like RCRDLBL which gives away free music from across the majors, what with free being so bad and all.

Governments around the world today, led by Britain and France are now passing laws that, if effectively implemented, would dramatically limit the traffic of free music, films and TV programmes.
I think - though I'm guessing - that McGuinness is talking about various bits of three strikes legislation. I'm not sure his confidence that they'll be ever effectively used is any more misplaced than the belief that other governments are going to follow Britain and France. Given that many governments are quite happy to let their nationals issue homemade DVDs of shakily-filmed copies of Piranha 3D, I wouldn't be holding my breath.
Numerous commercial strategies have tried to deal with "free." Today, many believe music subscription is the Holy Grail that will bring money flowing back into the business. I agree with them. A per-household monthly payment to Spotify for all the music you want seems to me a great deal. I like the idea of the subscription packages from Sky Songs too. These surely point the way to the future where music is bundled or streamed and paid for by usage rather than by units sold. Why should the price paid not correspond to the number of times the music is "consumed"?
Well, here's an idea: because consumers like to buy things, not rent them. I have a mug on my desk with an amusing picture of a cow on it. Had I been expected to pay a royalty everytime I slurped out of it, it would have remained in the store. I've got a subscription to The Guardian, and would no more expect them to bill me if I read the Sports section one day than I would demand a refund if I didn't get round to the op-ed pages one day.

The greedy little glint in your eye at the thought of not allowing us to own our music, but have to pay a toll every time we want to hear a song marks out the difference between someone who cares about The Industry and someone who cares about music. Having got a copyright law which effectively means you get paid for your days' work over and over again, you're now trying to concoct a situation where your over-extended paydays multiply a thousand times over.

I know you don't like being abused, but I really can't think of a phrase more apt than "you really are a chiseling little yamstain, aren't you?". But that isn't incohate abused. That's abuse that has been thought through. It's raging abuse, but it isn't ranting.

Here's a surprise, though: McGuinness then turns his fire on Rupert Murdoch for being nowhere near gung-ho enough:
Newspapers and magazines are trying to reinvent their businesses to deal with "free." It started with a honeymoon while mainstream titles opened up websites and attracted vast numbers of online readers, dwarfing their physical subscriptions. But the honeymoon has come to a miserable end. Newspaper circulation and advertising revenues have fallen sharply. Rupert Murdoch has re-introduced the "paywall" for some of his flagship newspaper titles such as the Times and the Sunday Times. Murdoch has great influence - his empire straddles all the businesses with stakes in the debate -- from the social network MySpace to the Wall Street Journal to Fox Movie Studios and the broadcaster Sky. I'm disappointed that he didn't take a closer look at the music industry's experience and see the dark side of "free" earlier.
But Murdoch's free stuff was stuff he was happily giving away. And remind me, how much does MySpace charge for sign-ups right now? It's... oh... what's the word again? Oh, free, isn't it?

I love the idea that McGuinness thinks that somehow the music industry is leading Murdoch into a world of paywalls, too.

(Again, just a little fact-check, Paul: newspaper circulations have been falling for decades, and advertising revenues have been tanking because of the recession. You might have heard about that, it was in the papers. Both the free ones, and the paid-for ones.)

McGuinness then dismisses the idea of lawsuits - he never supported them, and they're terrible PR. But, hush, we're finally getting to the point:
So what's the answer to "free"? It starts by challenging a myth - the one that says free content is an inexorable fact of life brought on by the unstoppable advance of technology. It is not. It is in fact part of the commercial agenda of powerful technology and telecoms industries.
This is such a stupid claim that it's hard to believe anyone at GQ let it appear in the magazine.

He's effectively saying that AOL and BT willed Napster into existence.


Go on, Paul. AOL - itself a content provider, and once part of a movies-to-TV organisation - and the other ISPs want consumers to steal things. Do explain:
Look at the figures as free music helped drive an explosion of broadband revenues in the past decade. Revenues from the "internet access" (fixed line and mobile) business quadrupled from 2004 to 2009 to $226bn. Passing them on the way down, music industry revenues fell in the same time period from $25bn to $16bn. Free content has helped fuel the vast profits of the technology and telecoms industries.
There's absolutely no way at all those are two totally unrelated facts. During the same period, McDonalds opened 1,000 restuarants, and that must have been fuelled by free music, too, right?

But you'll have some statistics as to actual usage which will prove this, right?
Do people want more bandwidth to speed up their e-mails or to download music and films as rapidly as possible?
Oh. You don't.

It's probably a bit of both, Paul. But watching Hollyoaks on 4OD isn't harming anyone's business. It is actually part of Channel 4's business.
I'm sure the people running ISPs are big music fans. But their free-music bonanza has got to stop. That will happen in two ways: by commercial partnership, with deals such as Sky Songs' unlimited-streaming subscription service; and by ISPs taking proportionate responsible steps to stop customers illegally file sharing on their networks.
Hang about, though: you've been smudging the idea of unlicensed and licensed free stuff - Murdoch had the right to give away the Sunday Times when he was doing so - and yet now, all of a sudden, the idea of record labels and artists sharing for free has vanished from your mix altogether. Where does that fit in? Or have you not thought that bit through yet?

What's that word for a not fully thought through argument? Inchoate, isn't it?

But, hey, Paul's been thinking:
I've done a lot of debating on this issue in the past two years. I have walked the corridors of Brussels, learned about the vast resources of the telecoms industry's lobbying machinery and encountered truly frightening naivety about the basics of copyright and intellectual property rights from politicians who should know better. More than once I have heard elected representatives describe paying for music as a "tax."
Well, if you have no choice but to pay it, then that would be near the right word, wouldn't it? You pay for a record; if you have to pay a portion of your broadband fee to the music industry, that'd be a tax. It could be a flat-rate licence if you'd rather it work that way. But, yes, that would be what it is.
I am convinced that ISPs are not going to help the music and film industry voluntarily.
Why exactly should they? They're also not doing anything to help the battle to save the high street bakers. Besides your unproven claim that people must be using their connections for evil, why would any company be obliged to help another? You're part of the capitalist society, Paul. That's what capitalism is.
Some things have got to come with the force of legislation. President Sarkozy understood that point when he became the first head of state to champion laws to require ISPs to reduce piracy in France. In Britain, the major political parties have understood it, too. Following the passing of new anti-piracy laws in April's Digital Economy Act, Britain and France now have some of the world's best legal environments for rebuilding our battered music business.
But it won't work, Paul. For a man trumpeting his head off about how he knew suing consumers would be a failure a few lines back, why have you suddenly become convinced that a piece of legislation - however appalling - that says 'it's still not on to take music without paying, like what that other law says' is going to make any difference? All it means is the ISPs will also be wasting their time and money in partnership with the record labels.

If your roof is leaking and getting your bed wet, putting another duvet on top of the wet one isn't fixing the roof.
At the heart of the approach France and Britain are taking is the so-called "Graduated Response" by which ISPs would be required to issue warnings to serious offenders to stop illegal file sharing. This is the most sensible legislation to emerge in the past decade to deal with "free." It is immeasurably better than the ugly alternative of suing hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Ah yes, how much less ugly to have the prospect of headlines like 'Unable to revise - because her brother downloaded a U2 song'; 'Grandmother thrown off internet after neighbour hijacked her wi-fi - "I can't talk to my grandkids in Australia" sobs 92 year-old' and all the rest.

At least suing has some sort of court overlooking what's going on.

McGuinness ends with a positive future - every song available all the time on any device, higher quality sound files ("MP3 files sound terrible" he reveals; they don't, of course, as most people are quite happy with them, and those who really care don't use them anyway) and a world where music companies are in the vanguard:
The mindset regarding free music is changing. Managers and artists I meet take the issue far more seriously than they did before. Newspaper editors no longer think the problems of music are from another world - they actually ask our advice on how to address them.
Seriously? Jesus, if you're asking EMI how to cope in the internet age you must be in the quicksands. It's like calling Alan Carr for beauty tips.
It may be that the crisis for music has now got so bad that the issue of "free" is really being properly understood for the first time.
Or rather, what you've done is a desperate bid to try and recast the argument in slightly different terms but still ignored the fundamental issue here.

You can't stop people passing tracks about. You can't stop people taping off the radio, or its 21st century equivalent. You can't do anything to alter the basic fact that the supply of a specific digital track is virtually unlimited, and that the logic of that is that the end user unit price is almost nothing.

And you can applaud Sarkozy until your hands bleed, and stalk the corridors of power forever; you can peer at AT&T's profits and mutter how it isn't fair. But it doesn't change the basic truth.

You're not selling individual packages of music to consumers any more. That business has gone, and every day you spend trying to bring it back is a day wasted, a day further away from the reinvention your business needs.

Embracing Spotify and the likes is good, and positive - you shouldn't try to pretend that it's a music business initiative, because liars aren't attractive, but it's great that you're finally not just hitting every new idea on its head.

But please: stop trying to talk up the idea that we can still be the 1960s; stop trying to create a Presbyterian-style campaign around the idea that most people will not pay for some of their music as being a moral ill. It just makes you sound ridiculous.

Oh, and by the way: while typing this, I've been listening to all the lovely free music on offer on Island Records' website. I think you might know a couple of people down there, Paul - do you want to go and give them your little lecture on how free music devalues everyone and how the music industry is so against it?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Downloadable: Manic Street Preachers

There's a new album out in a few short days. This track isn't on it:

[via Soundcloud]

Rolling Stone: better late than never

Probably only ten years after the rest of the world, Rolling Stone has decided that the war on file sharing was a bad move, and sent an ironic thanks to record executives for the war on mp3s:

It must have cost a bundle in future revenue, but don't worry - computers are a fad anyway, and the Internet is just plain stupid.
The note is handwritten. If you look, you'll notice that Rolling Stone still capitalise the "i" in "internet". Perhaps this explains why they're only now going 'hold on - this attack on Napster might be an own-goal'.

Rolling Stone, though, have embraced the internet. On the page promoting the current issue, there's this link:
See more stars getting naked on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Gordon in the morning: Clancy clash

How is Abby Clancy "coping" with whatever it is that Peter Crouch is supposed to have done?

She's doing brilliantly; I know, because Gordon's team told us yesterday:


Abbey put on a brave face as she breezed into work yesterday.

The presenter amazed the crew on her new E4 show Great British Hairdresser as she battled to prove the antics of Crouchy had NOT left her grouchy.

During eight hours of filming, the presenter was seen LAUGHING and JOKING.
That's great to hear, right? Breezing about, laughing, joking and leaving Caps Lock on.

Hang on, though: According to, erm, Gordon's team This Morning, Gordon's team yesterday was completely wrong:

DEVASTATED Abbey Clancy has pulled out of a live TV date today as she struggles to come to terms with fiancé Peter Crouch's cheating.

Abbey, 24, was due to front her fashion slot on ITV1's This Morning.

But last night she told bosses she could not face live TV after new revelations about England soccer star Crouch.
Apparently she was afraid the scrutiny would have been "too intense" if she'd gone on This Morning, although I'm sure the nine people still watching daytime ITV would have been gentle with her.

Meanwhile, Bono has taken up smoking again. Shortening his life, putting his voice at risk, but there's a downside, too, of course - an "amusing" list of U2 songs drawn up by Sean Hamilton, the number two at Gordon's desk:
1. New Year's 20-a-Day

2. Ciggie Of Blinding Lights

3. Where The Streets Have No Flames

4. Get On Your Cheroots

5. (Embassy No.) One
This comes under a heading "It's a buttiful day", which gives you an idea of what the shortlist must have been like. Where The Streets Have No Flames?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Funkobit: Robert Wilson

The bassist with The Gap Band, Robert Wilson, has died.

Wilson joined his two brothers' band after their first bassist quit, and had been funkily percussive ever since. Still playing live earlier this month, the 53 year-old suffered a fatal heart attack at his Palmdale home.

The Sex Pistols: Rotten stench

Had they not chopped him into parts and sold him in Punk Reliquary boxes, Sid Vicious would be turning in his grave, again. Here's The Sex Pistols: The perfume:

The English punk rock band - fronted by Johnny Rotten - have teamed up with cosmetic firm Fragrance and Beauty Limited to create the Sex Pistols scent, which is described as resisting tradition, fighting conformity and disregarding aromatic conventions.
Yes, it's resisting conventions and fighting conformity - the hole is on the wrong side of the bottle so whenever you try to squirt yourself, it ends up going in your eyes and burning. Or something.
According to a statement the fragrance - which is available exclusively at The Fragrance Shop -
See? Selling perfume at a perfume shop - in your face, tradition.
leaves a "fresh, restless bite of lemon, sharpened and intensified by a defiant black pepper".
Lemon and black pepper? Did anyone else think the Sex Pistols smelled like a well-prepared dover sole?
The release added: "Electrified by aldehydes, the fragrance exudes pure energy, pared down and pumped up by leather, shot through with heliotrope and brought back down to earth by a raunchy patchouli."
Hang about: patchouli? The hippiest scent of them all? Didn't anyone put any thought into this at all?

Hotpants Romance weekend: Emails

Just a little late for the weekend, so we'll sneak in the video for the new Hotpants Romance single:

[Part of Hotpants Romance weekend]

RIAA attempt to recast net neutrality debate as being about... oh, guess

As Google and Verizon flirt with each other and try to explain why making some content more equal than others is good news (for people other than Google and Verizon), the RIAA has an opinion.

Of course it does.

They've picked up this bit of Gooizon's statement:

[B]oth companies have long been proponents of the FCC’s current wireline broadband openness principles, which ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet, and can use what applications, services, and devices they choose. The enforceability of those principles was called into serious question by the recent Comcast court decision. Our proposal would now make those principles fully enforceable at the FCC.
The mere hint of the word 'legal' in that paragraph has, once fed into the RIAA hive-mind, come out as somehow proving that listening to an Osmond song without paying is on a par with raping a child and putting the photos online:
Industry giants Google and Verizon recently announced what they term a “joint policy proposal for an open Internet.” Our view? We appreciate that Google and Verizon, like the FCC and Congress, recognize that lawful and unlawful content should be treated differently. We look forward to seeing the specifics of the proposal once it is fleshed out, and to actively participating in the legislative and regulatory process to ensure that any ultimate solution permits and encourages ISPs to take measures to deter unlawful activity over their networks, whether copyright infringement, child pornography or other illegal conduct.
Actually, Google and Verizon don't say anything at all about unlawful content - and certainly nothing about how "unlawful" content should be treated. Saying that everything which is properly available on the internet should be given the same treatment is not the same thing as proposing there should be different treatment for anything else.

But - in the spirit of reading things into statements that aren't quite there - let us just record our surprise at the RIAA for its support for the principle of governments blocking access to content online. We look forward to the RIAA explaining exactly how far it wants Maoist regimes to go in throttling off what the citizenry can think. To dissent, remember, is like being a child pornographer.

Depressing news for queer youth

Or, equally possibly, depressing news about queer youth. Stonewall had an online poll to pick GLBT youth's best role model.

Will Young won.

And Joe McEdderly got 10% of the poll.

Between them, that's over two thirds of the vote.

Two men who took a decision to hide their sexuality lest it harm their chances on a game show, and who carried on hiding until forced out by the tabloids.

Even more depressingly, Stonewall are using their results as a reason to cheer, rather than putting their head in their hands and crying:

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said: "Young people involved with Stonewall tell us that role models help them overcome the homophobic bullying that’s rife in Britain’s schools. Pop culture is hugely influential to young people so it’s encouraging to see more openly lesbian, gay and bisexual British pop stars.

"Joe McElderry is already recognised as a role model so the scene is now set for him to become every bit as popular with young gay people as Will Young."
Stonewall, you don't think that their message - hide it as long as you can, because being gay will really hold you back; wait until you've got no choice and then do a deal with the people who are forcing you out - isn't one you should be celebrating?

I'm picturing a thousand provincial bedrooms, with teens looking a photos of Will Young, thinking "if I can hide it for a while longer..."

Stonewall should seriously think about giving up if they think this is a reason to celebrate.

Edith Bowman: Rock critic

Edith Bowman unhappy with the current state of pop:

[She] hit out at current pop acts for offering nothing different, reports the Daily Star.

"We need something different - everyone is the same," she said.
Yes, yes, you've got a point there, Edith. If only you had some position to influence that - you know, like some sort of programme on a national radio station where you could promote new and interesting music. That'd be handy.

Perhaps you could try persuading Radio 1 to replace the woman with same name as you who does a programme for them - it can't be the same Edith Bowman, can it, as that Edith Bowman packs her show with The Hoosiers, 30 Seconds To Mars and Kasabian.

This Edith Bowman, the one talking to the Star, is much different. She has a mind like a forensic music-blade:
On The Saturdays, whose new single charted at number three yesterday, she added: "They are just copying Girls Aloud."
You know what, I think she might be right. I've investigated, and it's almost as if some people in an office had attempted to concoct a version of Girls Aloud that cost a little less to run using slightly cheaper ingredients. I can't imagine how I'd missed that before Edith pointed it out.

Mind you, having opened my mind to the possibility that this sort of thing happens, I'm now starting to suspect that Edith Bowman might just be copying Jo Whiley. Surely that can't be, though?

Oh, if only this had taken place under Chatham House rules

Scouting For Girls frontman Roy Stride has revealed that the group argued over The Hoosiers.
Good lord. It's like the comb arguing over the bald men.

Scissor Sisters: a load of old arse

How to explain the barely-there sales of the supposed big Scissor Sisters comeback album, barely managing to scrape together 50,000 people in the week of release? And that, of course, despite the sort of push which could have got a whale beached by Southport pier back into the water?

You or I might put it down to a ho-hum bunch of songs that barely inspire, but Jake Shears has another excuse prepared for low sales. It's the cover:

He continued: "The album cover is provocative and we may not sell quite as many records because of it. It wouldn't be the same if it was a woman's behind.

"I guess some people love us for who we are, some vehemently despise us."
Ah yes. Having an ass on the cover. That'd be it. Killing those massive sales to people who find a male bottom unacceptable to the point where they won't buy a record with one on, but who still like the Scissor Sisters nevertheless. That would account for the hundreds of thousands who are sitting this one out.

Lady GaGa contact lenses: They'll poke yer face

Lady GaGa is trying to blind you, warns Newsbeat:

US warning over 'Lady Gaga' contact lenses
Blimey - what are they, then?
Opticians say American teenagers are risking their eyesight by wearing a controversial contact lens to make their eyes look bigger.

The trend started after Lady Gaga's music video, Bad Romance, hit screens last year.
So Lady GaGa used some sort of special contact lens in her video, then, and now kids are doing the same - is that it?

Well, no:
In the video, the singer's eyes have been digitally altered to make them look bigger and bolder.

But several companies making contact lenses in Asia claim to have achieved the same wide eyed look.
Ah, so these really don't have anything to do with Lady GaGa at all - surely, if anything, these are supposed to Manga-ise your eyes?

Anyway, what do they do?
The product, known as 'circle lenses', covers part of the white area in the eyes to make the pupil look larger.
And that's dangerous, is it?
The lenses are illegal to sell in the US because they haven't been approved by federal health officials, but they can bought online from foreign websites.
Opticians are worried that the lack of quality control will lead to problems like eye infections, damage to vision, and even loss of vision.
Ah. So this is nothing to do with Lady GaGa, and not even anything to do with anyone trying to look like one of her videos - the story is actually 'if you buy contact lenses from overseas websites, they won't be to the same standards as ones made to American standards'. That, you'd have to say, would be the same whether they were 'Lady GaGa' ones or just bog standard contacts for reading with. Perhaps that risk could be hyped, too - 'trying to emulate Martin Jarvis will send you blind'.

[Thanks to @dillpickle]

Gordon in the morning: The pseudonymous Katy Perry

Gordon reveals how Katy Perry books herself into hotels:

STARS often use an alias when they travel, but only KATY PERRY would borrow the name of an ex-junkie hooker.
Really? Is that what she does?
The singer revealed that for two years she has called herself Jerri Blank - the tart played by AMY SEDARIS in cult US telly comedy series Strangers With Candy.
Ah. So she actually signs in with a name lifted from a cult comedy. Like nearly every star in the firmament.

In other news, even Gordon struggles to make the shitty way Dappy live sound like a crazy-wild-cool lifestyle:
A string of late-night parties saw furniture and doors ruined, graffiti on walls, work surfaces damaged and plasterwork holed. Light fittings were cracked, a toilet blocked and abandoned food left to rot, stinking out the kitchen.
You can just bet he didn't use the recycling bins properly, too, can't you?

So, what is Dappy's response?
Last night he accepted the damage had been done and added: "I've moved out and am concentrating on the new album."
So trying to put one steaming heap out of his mind so he can work on the next one.

Gordon tries to put a positive ending on the story:
He has had a series of run-ins with authority but vowed to clean up his act after finding out his long-term girlfriend Kaye Vassell is pregnant with their second child.
"You know, your first child is just like a yellow card, innit, like a warning, but when you get the second child, that's your red card, so you gotta take that serious, right?"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Savour flavours with Flava Flav

Never mind your celebrity Masterchef, this is your limelight-and-kitchen crossover:

Found and shared by the ever-excellent Awful Library Books, it's rappers. In the kitchen:
It includes such delectable culinary fare as, “Flava Flav’s Rice Pilaf.” Ingredients: A bag of rice and all your favorite sh*t.
Also, “Kid ‘n Play’s Beanie Weenies.” Ingredients: A can of beans, six hot dogs (cut in half) Directions: Heat and eat!

Universal yanks videos from MTV website

Americans seeking to watch Universal acts through the MTV website will now feel like they're British: they're just going to be told no, as Universal have withdrawn a licence deal which let MTV stream their videos.

Universal had been trying to force MTV to basically embed Vevo versions of their catalogue; MTV were quite keen to not slap in all the Google-centred advertising that would imply:

In a statement, Universal said: “MTVN has been unwilling to negotiate a fair syndication deal with Vevo to carry our artists’ videos and consequently our videos will not be shown on their online properties. We believe that using Vevo as our online music video syndication platform is the best way to maximize revenue for our artists, our songwriters and ourselves.”
"... although, of course, not in that order."

MTV tried to put a brave face on it:
“We continue to seek out new and innovative ways to connect artists with their fans that are mutually beneficial to everyone. However, during our recent discussions with Vevo, we were unable to reach a fair and equitable agreement for rights to stream UMG artists’ music video content.” The company added that it was “disappointed” by Universal’s decision.
The worry for MTV is the calculation by Universal that the brand value of the MTV name in bringing an audience is so small that it can happily cut them out of the equation.

Given that this a record label, and they're not exactly on their best turf when dealing with digital matters, Universal could be totally wrong, and MTV can probably cling to that if it's looking for hope. But given a focus on the mainstream, losing one-quarter of the majors is going to be a bit of a blow nevertheless.

Downloadable: The Smashing Pumpkins

To be honest, I'm holding my nose with this one, but it might be of interest:

Transmission - The Smashing Pumpkins

Live in Bilbao, in 1998. Yes, that Transmission.

[Lifted directly from Largehearted Boy, whose daily downloads feature is essential]

Cheryl versus malaria: now it's personal

Cheryl Cole has now decided that she's going to attack malaria like it was a poorly-paid toilet attendant: Or at least a source tells the Sunday Mirror that:

“It is a very brave decision. Cheryl has thought long and hard about it. This is a life-changing, landmark experience for her. She’s seen how malaria ­destroys people’s lives and now has first-hand knowledge of just how serious it is. Cheryl got the best care possible when she got back from Tanzania and she is very grateful for it. But she is aware that millions of Africans are not so lucky.

“After what she has been through, you might have thought Africa was the last place she’d be wanting to go to. But the reverse is true.

“She wants to get out there as soon as the X Factor has been wrapped up.”
Naturally, you'd put popping up to tell Luke from Bromley-By-Bow that his Justin Timberlake cover was brilly-ant but needed work ahead of getting stuck in with sorting out malaria nets for all, but beyond jerry-rigging the Christmas chart race and helping ITV's bottom line there is no higher priority in Cole's life.

I mean, obviously she's not going to sell her six million quid home, move to one half the value and donate the difference to buying nets. That would be stupid. But, you know, she's committed. And just splashing news of her commitment to the front of the Mirror - why, that on its own will strike fear into the heart of malaria.

[UPDATE: Malaria is currently briefing that News Of The World that it feels hurt by Cole's reaction: "I did loads to get her days and days of coverage in the Sun, and this is how she repays me? A cheap attack simply to promote the new series of the X Factor? I'm more than a little hurt, I have to say."]

This week just gone

The most-read stories from this month so far:

1. Deadmu5 collapses on stage
2. Where have Susan Boyle's millions gone?
3. Libertines now trailing their gig announcements
4. Carphone Warehouse announces bemusingly pointless new service
5. An unhappy outing: Joe McElderry
6. Johnny Dee wants to ban covers from the charts
7. Fiat and Faithless tie up, cut out the labels
8. Yoko still proudly keeping Beatles off iTunes
9. Liam Gallagher: trouser seller
10. Video: David Bowie and Nine Inch nails

These were the interesting releases:

Cathal Coughlan - Rancho Tetrahedron

Download Rancho Tetrahedron

Sky Larkin - Kaleide

Download Kaleide

June Tabor - Apples

Download Apples

Thomas Koner - Nunatek | Teimo | Permafrost

Caitlin Rose - Own Side Now

Download Own Side Now

Viv Stanshall - Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead

Download Men Opening...

A £600 ham