Saturday, December 17, 2011

The X Factor: A Warning From History

Little Mix, who apparently won The X Factor last week, and Marcus Collins, who didn't, have been sent a warning letter from Joe McElderry:

"You'll find it isn't really about coming first or second. I don't believe, Marcus, that you will have more creative control than Little Mix because you came second," he wrote. "It's up to you all to take it to the next level. There's no rule book for popstars. Everyone does it differently. X Factor is an amazing platform.

"You are in control of your own destiny. I know people think Simon Cowell is in control, and yes, sometimes you have to follow what the record company says, but Simon likes people who can stand up to him, who say: 'I don't want to do this', or, 'I like that song'."

On Cowell, McElderry continued: "He's a very busy man and spends a lot of time in America, so most of the time we'd chat on the phone, but now and again I'd go into the office and he'd be there and we'd chat about songs. I'd say: 'I'm not keen on this one and I really like that'.

"He'd say: 'Can you try this?' It's about building a working relationship, not who controls who."
All good advice. Slightly weakened by it having been scribbled between shifts on the back of a McDonalds tray liner.

The recipients got it, shrugged, and asked "who the hell is Joe McElderly? Never heard of him."

Rumours suggest Universal might save HMV

In a piece that suggests HMV is following a dreadful year with a miserable Christmas comes speculation that Universal might try to make it all better for the nearly-defunct record shop:

Other industry sources speculated that Universal may intervene with a rescue offer for the business. Such a white knight deal would see HMV reunited with its former sister company EMI, the recorded music arm of which Universal agreed to acquire last month. HMV was spun out of EMI in 1998.
Universal are, apparently, currently keeping HMV afloat with generous credit terms, so it's not impossible.

But does Universal really need a company which is about to report six months losses of nearly £40m, and a business which has suggested it sees its future selling iPads and headphones rather than CDs and DVDs?

There's a historical joke here - when HMV was part of ThornEMI, it was part of a technology company which sold records on the side; if it was reunited with EMI in the Universal family it would be part of a record business, flogging technology on the side.

Does not compute

The idea that there's an algorithm which can predict if a record will be a chart hit often pops up; there's a new one being reported on by BBC News:

University of Bristol scientists claim to have developed software that can spot whether a song has hit potential.

The program looks at 23 separate characteristics including loudness, danceability and harmonic simplicity.

Trained using hit songs from the Top 40 over the last 50 years, the software can predict chart positions with about 60% accuracy, the scientists say.
Really? Given that most singles released in the last half century vanish without trace, I'd be a bit surprised if the University Of Bristol has managed to number-crunch them all, and without the ones which sounded like hits which never took off, you'd have to question that 60% accuracy figure.

Indeed, it turns out the 60% accuracy figure is based on working out where a new entry would end up, not on if a new release would chart.

That might have been a useful tool back in the 70s, when singles would enter the charts low and wind their way slowly up the list, like a tired man carrying shopping up a hill. But since the trend started for songs to debut at the top of the chart, it's hard to see what use this would be: "Your song which went straight in at number one sounds like a number one".

And there's this:
What regularly tripped up the equation were the unexpected hits that became popular for reasons that often had nothing to do with their musical qualities, he said.

In 2010, Surfin' Bird by The Trashmen reached number three in the UK charts, thanks to a web campaign persuading people to buy it to prevent X Factor winner Matt Cardle being the Christmas number one.

In a similar way, said Dr De Bie, the equation could not determine to what extent marketing determined whether a song was a hit.
Not being able to take account of marketing when determining likely chart outcomes is akin to predicting the outcome of a horse race without counting the legs of the horses.

Gordon in the morning: Harrying Harry

Apparently a young man went to a couple of Christmas parties this week. Gordon feels this is news.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Universal claims it can have any video pulled from YouTube. Any at all.

Here's something a bit worrying: a large corporation which appears to have a deal with Google to have any video it doesn't like taken off YouTube:

Your letter could be read to suggest that UMG's rights to use the YouTube "Content Management System" with respect to certain user-posted videos are limited to instances in which UMG asserts a claim that a user-posted video contains material that infringes a UMG copyright. As you know, UMG's rights in this regard are not limited to copyright infringement, as set forth more completely in the March 31, 2009 Video License Agreement for UGC Video Service Providers, including without limitation Paragraphs 1(b) and 1(g) thereof.
Presumably, the idea was that Universal's deal with Google to allow music to which they owned the copyright to appear on YouTube had a clause that could be used to squish edge cases. Maybe Google rationalised it: they'll have to lose the odd parody, despite parody being a protected use in the US, but it's a deal worth doing to get access to the Universal catalogue.

And yet, here we are now, with a company apparently convinced it can have videos taken down at whim.

If I were an evil corporation - let's say, for the sake of argument, Coke - I'd watch this video reminding people of how unionists who organise my labour sometimes end up dead, and get on the phone to my chums in Universal. "Hello? Can you veto any video on YouTube, regardless of if you have any legal reason to do so? Yes? Could you do me a favour...?"

Indonesia "protects" the punks

Aceh police are currently having a crackdown on punks. How bad is it?

Listen to Gustav Leo, police spokesperson, explaining how they're just helping:

Mr Leo stressed that no-one had been charged with any crime, and there were no plans to do so.

They have now been taken to a remedial school in the Seulawah Hills, about 60km (37 miles) away from the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

"They will undergo a re-education so their morals will match those of other Acehnese people," says Mr Leo.[...]
"We didn't arrest them, they haven't committed any criminal offence," he says.

"They are Aceh's own children - we are doing this for their own good. Their future could be at risk. We are re-educating them so they don't shame their parents."
So, happily admitting they've broken no law, and will not be given a trial, the police are carting off punks for enforced behavioural change.

Here's the contact details for the Indonesian Embassy in London:

Indonesian Embassy
38 Grosvenor Square
London W1K 2HW

Tel. (020) 7499 7661
Fax. (020)7491 4993


If you're in America, you can speak directly to the Indonesian ambassador through a webform.

You might want to tell them that it's the police, not punks, who need their attitude changed.

[Thanks to Laura Brown]

Gordon in the morning: Coldplay appear to have hit puberty

Having a bunch of tits in a Coldplay video is more-or-less impossible to avoid, as Coldplay will be in it.

Having actual breasts though? That sounds a bit desperate. But if the idea was to make Gordon tumescent, job done:

COLDPLAY will have seen more boobs than Hugh Hefner by the end of this week.

The band came up with a winning idea for the video for their next single, Charlie Brown — a warehouse party featuring a load of topless girls.

Management placed an advert offering to pay extras £100 for the job — with an extra 100 quid for any girls willing to whip their shirts off and jiggle about.

A further £100 was also laid on the table for anyone up for getting sprayed. Although it didn't specify what with.
So far, so tiresomely sexist. Is there any way that multimillionaires paying a few quid to women to get their tits out could be made an even bigger cringe?
The advert also asked for an army of "edgy Hoxtonian types aged from 18 to 35".
Edgy Hoxtonian types. Yes, that would do it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Countryobit: Billie Jo Spears

I'm doubly sad to hear of the death of Billie Jo Spears.

It's sad news in its own right, of course, but also there's a personal note of sadness. My Mum didn't show much interest in popular music when I was a kid - she'd tap along to a James Last album, and would always have Radio 2 on, but there wasn't very much of the excited connection with music that I was starting to feel back then.

Billie Jo Spears was one of the exceptions to this, though: I think it's the only time she ever expressly requested a record for Christmas.

Like many people, it was this song which sparked my Mum's admiration for Spears:

And the album? She played it a couple of times, but didn't think that most of the album tracks were up to the standard of the single. A sentiment which I would grow used to feeling myself over the ensuing years.

Billie Jo Spears died on Wednesday, in Silsbee, Texas. She was 73.

Bookmarks: Tom Ewing

As we reach the time of year when every publication pads out space with best-of lists, Tom Ewing is on hand to help if you're vexed by your favourite record not being in every list, at number one, forever:

Stage Three: Bargaining. As your anger cools, you realise that the only reason the writers could have made this mistake is ignorance. Perhaps if you use their comments box to list your own Top 50 of the year they will see sense. Yes! That must be it. Go on! Do it! Cut and paste any relevant stretches of their list to save time.

Madonna 360 degree contract becomes more 270, 260-ish

Back in 2007, you'll recall that amid much hoopla, Madonna signed a ten year deal with LiveNation for everything:

The 10-year deal encompasses all of Madonna's future music and music-related businesses, including the exploitation of the Madonna brand, new studio albums, touring, merchandising, fan clubs/Web sites, DVDs, music-related television and film projects and associated sponsorship agreements. This model will address all of Madonna's music ventures as a total entity for the first time in her career.

"The real story here is while everyone's talking 360 [degree deals], we were quietly building the services to do it right," Rapino says. "We have spent a considerable amount of resources building this Artist Nation division first and then going after artists second. Madonna would not have done a 360 deal with us just because of our touring capability. We had to prove to her and others that we have been working on and built a very good execution capacity at Artist Nation."
Surprising, then, that she's just signed a three album deal with Universal.

Perhaps LiveNation weren't quite as good at being a record label as they thought they were. Perhaps they should have spent less time on the execution capacity, and focused on the records?

Gordon in the morning: The Booker surprise

I'm sure it's just a coincidence, and given the rising tensions between "News" International and the Guardian Media Group the long-lens pap snap of a Guardian columnist on Gordon's pages this morning isn't some sort of attempt at revenge.

I'm sure Gordon thinks he's just invading the privacy of Konnie Huq, and the fact that Charlie Brooker is also violated at the same time is just - what would the phrase be? - collateral asshattery.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grab a zine: GirlGangZine

It is a thing of beauty, and a thing of importance: you need a copy of GirlGangZine.


Let's let them tell you:


Gordon in the morning: The Wanted's little penis

There's something almost sweet about the "rudeness" The Wanted pumped into This Morning's Twitter stream:

FAMILY show This Morning left its followers stunned this morning when the words "t**s", "balls" and "little penis" appeared on its official Twitter page.
For some reason, The Sun has censored "tits", which - given it's mainly sold on the promise of seeing a pair of tits - seems a little strange.

Obviously, it's childish, but given what they could have tweeted while in control of the account, there's a surprising innocence about it. Or possibly a lack of ambition. Or imagination.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gordon in the morning: Swimsuit issue

Gordon's excited this morning:

THIS is the closest we're going to get to seeing Lana Del Rey in her cossie – the illusion style making her look even slimmer and curvier.
And what is the "closest thing" to Lana Del Ray in a swimming costume?

The American singer posed in the swimsuit for the latest edition of fashion magazine V, which is out next month.
It's Lana Del Ray in a swimming costume.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gordon in the morning: Chris Martin isn't wrong

From Gordon, Chris Martin on Lady GaGa:

"I just admire all of the hats and the dresses and the madness and everything because I know that underneath it all she can beat me at writing choruses."
Chris, sweetheart, the kids in my schoolplayground who wrote 'bum, tit, tit/ bum, tit, tit/ turn your willy round' beat you at writing choruses.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Countryobit: Bee Spears

Bee Spears, long-time bassist for Willie Nelson's band, has died.

Spears started working with Nelson in 1968, and has played with him on record and stage pretty much ever since. The 62 year-old slipped and fell outside his home in Nashville; temperatures dropped to minus three while he was outside overnight.

This week just gone

The most-read stories so far this month:

1. HMV announce the X Factor winner by mistake
2. Showbiz Zoe goes to Romford
3. Tesco Christmas advert invites scumbags, maggots and cheap lousy faggots to store
4. German newspaper borrows a line from Chubby Brown
5. Radio One reshuffles dance music
6. RIP: Dobie Gray
7. RIP: Howard Tate
8. Lady GaGa fears she'll turn into Lady Diana
9. That Grammys shortlist in full
10. Black Type teatowel - it's back, back, back

Tunng - This Is Tunng Live From The BBC

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Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie, Eraldo Bernocchi - Winter Garden

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The Black Keys - El Camino

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The Cure - Bestival Live

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The Men They Couldn't Hang - Demos And Rarities

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Judy Collins - Bohemian

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