Saturday, June 15, 2013

Congratulations to PJ Harvey

Congratulations to PJ Harvey, on becoming an MBE. Twenty-five year career. A fitting reward.

On this basis, Adele should probably expect to get a letter inviting her to pick up an MBE in 2031.

What? What?

Kim Deal quits the Pixies

Kim Deal has left the Pix... hang on, what?

Are you sure, USA Today?

The Pixies have not toured together since fall 2011 and last released original music in 2004.
No future plans have been announced by the remaining Pixies members, which include Black Francis, David Lovering and Joey Santiago.
What exactly has she "left"? Shouldn't this statement read "Kim Deal has gotten tired of sitting around waiting for something to happen"?

Embed and breakfast man: Adam Ant

It's Saturday. That's all the excuse we need for Adam Ant on Swap Shop. Includes a segment of Adam and Noel talking about the recession:

Do not phone or write. This is a recording.

Shocking news from East Grinstead

Oh no!

Yes, there are "For Sale" signs outside Peter Andre's house, and East Grinstead is in pre-emptive mourning:
The news will undoubtedly come as a shock to the pop star's legion of fans who had grown used to spotting him in and around the town.
Strictly speaking, Andre lives in Dormansland, which isn't even in the same county. But given that he's not bothered the Top Ten since 2009, Andre's not really a pop star, either.

Gordon in the morning: The ghost of a chance

To be fair, Gordon's not connected with the front page of the Sun today; it's down to Pete Samson, currently US editor of the - shall we call it - publication?.

You've probably already seen this, as the world has been convulsing with laughter at the final demise of the Sun as a newspaper since the first edition came out:

Yes, that's right. The Sun's big front page splash comes from a ghost.

And not just a ghost, but a ghost addressing a court via the medium of a former partner of Lionel Ritchie:
MICHAEL Jackson’s death has been declared an accident — by his own GHOST, a court heard.
Jacko, 50, was said to have told Lionel Richie’s ex Brenda that he inadvertently killed himself.
Being even-handed, the ghost of Larry Lamb has been in contact with us (via someone who once had their breasts brushed by Mark Morrison) to point out that it's not as if Pete Samson is claiming that he's had an interview with the moonwalking spectre, and in effect this is simply court reporting.

It's probable that the idea was to have a bit of a guffaw at the very idea that the CEO of AEG, Randy Philips, would trot this guff out under oath:
AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips stunned the wrongful death trial by claiming Jacko had insisted from beyond the grave that his death was an accident — and cleared Dr Murray.

He told jurors at Los Angeles County Superior Court: “Brenda called me to tell me that she was in communications with Michael, either through a medium or directly.

“She said Michael told her it wasn’t Dr Murray’s fault — that he had accidentally killed himself.”

Many in the court burst into laughter, but judge Yvette Palazuelos let the testimony STAND.
It's not clear why this testimony would have stood - it's not even second hand. And it comes from a ghost.

Unfortunately for Samson, his piece has been overpromoted to the front page and presented in such a way that makes it look like the paper believes Jackson's ghost is sending messages from beyond the grave.

And given the low-attention culture which The Sun has done a good part to foster, most people will go away with that impression, too.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Status Quo make a new friend

-Remind me why we're doing this, Rick
-It's simple. Brian May's got the mammals all tied up. We can't compete with him on mammals. But Staus Quo will rule the seas.

Slightly drier interpretation of this photo from the Evening Argus.

Warner Chappell faces unhappy returns

Warner Chappell has had a nice little business going over the last few years, collecting money from the rights it owned to the song Happy Birthday. Even Nancy Reagan singing it to Ronnie once got a terse demand for cash dispatched to broadcasting networks.

Except... maybe they don't own the rights at all. Filmaker Jennifer Nelson was asked to pay to include the song in a documentary she was making. But rather than hand over the cash - USD1500! - she started to dig. And she's not sure the song belongs in copyright:

Nelson's company Good Morning to You Productions Corp claimed: "Irrefutable documentary evidence, some dating to 1893, shows that the copyright to Happy Birthday to You, if there ever was a valid copyright to any part of the song, expired no later than 1921". Their class-action lawsuit, filed on 13 June, directly challenges Warner/Chappell's ownership of the song, whereby the publishers collect thousands of dollars every time a film, TV show or musical act buys a licence to perform it.
It could be expensive for Warner Chappell if a judgement goes against them - they'll have to return all that cash they've been raking in for years; and it could be as much as fifty million dollars.

Songbird falls silent

Open Source music player, Songbird, has finally got to the bottom of the over-optimistic USD11million invested in it, and has closed.

Gordon in the morning: Ripped from the headlines

For reasons I can't quite work out, Gordon Smart reproduces Craig David's keep-fit tips at great length this morning.

At first it seems like he's just chortling:

CRAIG David has tweeted this ripped snap of himself to encourage fans to stick to their goals.

He accompanied it with a lengthy sermon on how the old image – capturing Craig at his physical peak – inspires him to stay focused on his fitness objectives.

The British singer – who recently returned to his Miami home following a world tour – revealed he’s got the pic saved on his phone in a folder called Stay Focused.

Every time he feels tempted to stray from his strict diet and exercise regime, he looks at the photo to put himself back on track.

And he advised his Twitter followers to do the same, whatever their ambitions.
But if this is intended to be snarky - and frankly, how could it not be? - Smart then goes on to reproduce David's waffle at such great length it's almost like he's endorsing it.

Here's a taste:
“I just go to this photo on my phone...under the folder ‘Stay Focused’ which reminds me instantly to get back on track and in this case reminds me how good it feels when I achieve my goal and don't listen to my ‘old inner weakness’ voice trying to remind me of how I used to be! Trust me it works!!!
Just to be clear: the goal he's working towards is fitness, even if it does sound like he's using a photo of himself where perhaps an earlier generation might have reached for a copy of Razzle.

Here's a quick look at that photo of the Prime Of Mr Craig David, to see if it makes the rest of us inspired:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bloc Party go back on hiatus

In case you hadn't noticed, Bloc Party came out of hiatus last year. But apparently, like some sort of indie Punxsutawney Phil, they didn't see their own shadows, and they're returning to their burrows.

Liam Gallagher wants The Smiths to reform for... reasons

Liam Gallagher wants the Smiths to reform:

"I'd like to see The Smiths. I never seen 'em."
Wow, so you'd force Mozzer and Marr and the two lawnmower-ones back onto stage together? You must have been a big fan, then?
"I weren't a big fan."

So... erm, why do you want them to reunite so badly?
"I know all the f***ing songs because my brother was into them."
That's not an especially good reason for wanting a band to reform. I can remember the lyrics to most of the 1980s Fruit And Fibre adverts, but that doesn't mean I want to force Ross Kemp to do this again:

Okay, actually, I'd love to see Ross Kemp do that, but you get my point.

Liam puffs his pipe and recalls the day the Smiths fell apart:
I remember when they split up, man. People were proper running around like headless chickens in Manchester.
Really? You were 14 when that happened, weren't you? And how exactly did the "headless chicken running" manifest itself?

Myspace: It's back. Your stuff isn't, but it is.

Hey, everyone. MySpace is out of beta. Of its second or third incarnation. Or is it fourth? One loses track.

Still, the precarious business of relaunch is upon them, and surely they'll be making sure that the few existing users who've kept faith with the site through the lean years will be given the smoothest, easiest transition to the new look. After all, you don't want to piss off your most loyal community, do you?

Hang about... can anyone smell burning?

MySpace... you didn't chuck the blogs on the fire, did you?


Is it possible to give us access to our old blogs so that we can save them? I used Myspace as a travel blog while living abroad and would really love to have that content before it's deleted. :(

I agree, with ELAYEEMARIE I want my page that I had for years and worked on to make it me... MY SPACE was what it meant !!! A special place for me and my friends to share. " A PLACE FOR FRIENDS" was the objective. My page was like my Cyber home, it had a unique look and feel. The videos I had added would always give me a quick pick me up when I or my friends needed them. Our messages and comments that held importants to us cannot be replaced with music promotions or other usless commercials that you seem to think is what your true users want. What in the world would make you change this ? Money ! I think having the choice to open either or was fine, but if its gone, so am I... Thanks for the memories, goodluck

You don't warn us and then take away blogs and private messages? There were things I wanted to keep from there! I would have logged it all on my computer if I had known, but to do this with no warning?!
And on and on it goes. Adding insult to the very real injury, all these long-standing MySpace users are being given a status indicator on their names which makes them look like they've just turned up:
Blithely unaware of what the problem is, MySpace grin and explain how having a decade or so of your life wiped is a GRATE NEW FEATURE:
We're focused on building the best Myspace possible. And to us, that means helping you discover connect and share with others using the best tools available. Going forward we're concentrating on building and maintaining the features that make those experience better. That means you won't see a few products on the new site...

Private Messages
Comments or Posts
Custom background design
We know that this is upsetting to some but it gives us a chance to really concentrate on creating a new experience for discovery and expression. Feel free to hit the Me Too button if you have similar questions so we can track your needs and concerns.
Yeah, you know those very things that kept you coming back to MySpace all this time? You were like a schmuck. It'd be better if you had never done all of that, it meant your experience was bad.

Amongst the stuff that has gone, MySpace has wiped irreplaceable memories:
I would like to know about this too, plus my old blogger friends, of whom two have now passed on. I came back to Myspace just to read their blogs from time to time!
There's a slogan for you, MySpace: "The place that exorcises your friends".

The idea that you can build a new service which relies on interaction by demonstrating that you can't be trusted with those interactions is a curious one.

So, what have they built on the smouldering embers of the old site? It's a bit like a poor man's Tumblr except - USP AHOY - they've gone with left-to-right scrolling instead of up-and-down. I know, innovative, right?

It feels like just another glossy, fawning pop site; the use of "my" seemingly ironic as the aim is to be a mediated layer between the-celebs-who-will-be-part-of-it-at-least-until-the-stats-are-shared and the plebs.

Seriously, though: that left-right scrolling? Did you do any user testing where that was hailed as a good idea?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beady Eye: How goes the sales?

Let's check-in with Sister Ray, shall we?


Robin Thicke: Thicke by name...

Robin Thicke is currently number one, mostly on the strength of a video with topless women in it.

But it's okay, because it's art, he tells Metro:

Is it acceptable to objectify women in pop videos? If it’s acceptable to ‘objectify’ women in the Louvre… People have been painting and sculpting naked women since the beginning of time. We didn’t objectify them, we just showed them in their most natural state.
That's right, women. Your natural state is with your tits out writhing next to a so-so singer.

Ed Sheeran: Nashville's gain is Britain's gain

Apparently, Ed Sheeran has upped sticks and moved off to Nashville:

Sheeran said he wanted to live somewhere that incorporates a lot of music, has a lot of countryside and a relaxed atmosphere — and isn’t filled with rude people.

“And Nashville is full of very, very nice people,” the 22-year-old said.
Sweetly, although perhaps inadvertently, Sheeran acknowledges that he's a tiny, tiny fish in a big pool:
“I don’t think people really care in Nashville,” Sheeran said. “Even if they knew who you were, I don’t think they’d care. They’d just be like, ‘Eh.’”
For Ed, it's just like home:
Sheeran said his new home reminds him of Framlingham, a rural area in England where he grew up before moving to London.
It's true. Here's Nashville:
And here's Framlingham:
Virtually impossible to tell the difference, isn't it?

[Framlingham image Nick MacNeil CC-BY-SA; Nashville Mike_tn CC-BY-NC-ND]

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bookmarks: The iPod

Did you know a British guy invented the iPod? No, no, not Jonathan Ive; Kane Kramer came up with idea - even patenting it, and building in DRM, back in 1979. Despite selling some preproduction units, he was ahead of his time; his patent lapsed and he even wound up being called as a witness when Apple was fighting its own patent battles. Wired has the full story and pics. And remember: this was from the year the Walkman was introduced:

Kramer came up with the idea for a pocket-sized, portable solid state music player with a friend, James Campbell. Kramer was 23, Campbell 21. The IXI System had a display screen and buttons for four-way navigation. In a report presented to investors in 1979, the IXI was described as being the size of a cigarette packet. Is this sounding familiar yet?

Back in 1979, a memory chip would store a paltry three and a half minutes of music. Kramer fully expected this to improve, and confidently foresaw a market for reliable, high quality digital music players which would be popular with both consumers and the record labels. It could actually be argued that he was still ahead of Apple after the firat iPod went on sale — that had a hard drive and Kramer had moved onto flash memory years earlier.

[With thanks to @curiousiguana]

Monday, June 10, 2013

The needle returns to the start of the song and we all sing along like before

Exciting news from the New York Times. Vinyl, it's coming back.

Vinyl records almost disappeared after CDs were introduced, but they’re making a comeback — and a surprising number of LP buyers are young listeners.
Ah, sweet old, reliable friend makes a return. Not vinyl, but a story about vinyl coming back.

Last month, for example, it was The Arizona Republic spotting the trend:
Vinyl records are making a comeback across generations
In April, Forbes spotted the sales:
The Beat Goes On: How Vinyl Records Are Making A Comeback
That was just a few days after The Racine Journal Times pointed to all those kids with 12" singles under their arms:
Vinyl records making a comeback with collectors
Even Senior Planet is talking about it:
Got Vinyl? Record Albums Are Making a Comeback
But let's be fair to the New York Times. After all, if you pitch something at editorial meetings with the words "have you guys noticed what's going on at the top of the pops?", it's going to be three days before you'll be able to tempt Mark Thompson out the Executive Panic Room. Maybe they're a few weeks behind - ahem - Senior Planet with knowing what's down with the kids, but this 2013 new vinyl trend is just rolling, right?

What's that you're saying, Dubspot?
The Resurgence of Vinyl Continues In 2012 – Record Stores Making a Comeback?
But that was November.

Although The Daily Beacon had a story in August 2012:
Vinyl making local comeback
Hang about, if the mainstream media were reporting this story summer last year, surely some edgy, rule-breaking group was trying to warn us sooner? Fox News, maybe, in June 2012:
Vinyl records mount comeback
Fox. First with news.
Vinyl Records Making Comeback
Okay, so Voice Of America ran a story in September 2011.
And USA Today had a story in February 2011:
As both a music lover and record store owner, Tim Cretsinger is excited about the recent resurgence of vinyl record albums.

"This is my favorite thing to do — hold a batch of records like this," Cretsinger, owner of Groovacious in Cedar City, Utah, says as he hugged a stack of new records close to his chest.

"It reminds me of the old days."

The old days are making a comeback.
And the LA Times did the story in 2009:
In a digital age, vinyl's making a comeback
The Telegraph was heralding the vinyl comeback in 2002:
Forget the compact disc, the MP3 player and the MiniDisc. The vinyl record, once believed to be consigned to the dustbin of music history, is making a comeback.
Yes, that's a vinyl comeback story from so long ago that it mentions MiniDisc in it.

But let's be fair, you can't really expect the New York Times to monitor all the other media in the world having been reporting vinyl comeback stories month in, month out for over ten years.

You might have hoped, though, the paper would have spotted this story:
Music on vinyl making a comeback
That was the New York Times announcing a comeback for vinyl back in 2008.

Ah, if only the Times could have had the prescience of this publication, which reported on vinyl's scramble from the grave in 1994:
A funny thing happened on the way to the burial of the vinyl record. It has been kept alive by a subculture of ardent fans who insist that something precious is lost when music gets all cleaned up on a CD. In addition to preferring what they insist is the "warmer" sound of vinyl, fans speak wistfully of the tactile pleasures of an LP -- studying the cover art, reading the liner notes, even placing the big, meaty platter on a turntable.
You'll be ahead of me: that was the New York Times.

Nearly two decades of running articles about how vinyl is clinging to life. The only thing more resilient than the twelve inch album is the ability of journalists to pretend to be surprised when talking about them.

iRadio: Can you feel the excitement?

Can you hear the world, holding its breath, for the launch of Apple iRadio?

Nope, me neither.

The sheer lack of people who say "you know what I wish? I wish I could stream music through the iTunes interface" has always been noticeable.

It's likely that Apple will make the service a success, simply through plonking the iRadio button on homescreens of devices, and maybe there'll be something to the service unveiled today that makes it essential, or desirable, but it's hard to see the problem with music streaming that needs Apple to solve it.

AllThingsD tries to describe what we can expect:

[It] should function like an enhanced version of Pandora — that is, it will be a free streaming music service that gives users more control of their songs than standard Web radio, but less than full on-demand services like Spotify.
That's... uh, clear. The idea is that the tracks you hear will be half-determined by you telling it what you want to hear, and half it scanning your iTunes history. You know that time you bought the Crazy Frog to burn onto a CD for a joke for your brother? THAT will be the guiding light that iRadio seizes on to build your playlists. That, and the thirty unplayed episodes of OpenSouceSex.

Even so, I'll bet Spotify and Pandora are feeling uncomfortable this morning.

Interestingly, Apple have only just managed to pull Sony on board. Are the majors happy?
The majors publishers had looked like they were going to be the holdout because Apple initially offered to pay them a rate of 4.1% of its advertising revenue, while the publishers had been withdrawing digital rights from the U.S. performance rights organizations BMI and ASCAP because they wanted higher rates. BMG, Sony/ATV, UMPG and Warner/Chappell executives had privately said they were seeking rates of 10%-15% of iRadio’s advertising revenue. But when Apple agreed to a 10% rate, Warner/Chappell last week signed the deal and now so has Sony/ATV.
Getting more than double Apple wanted to pay. That's quite a strong move by the majors. Let's hope they don't do that thing where they suddenly get insanely greedy.
While publishers will get 10% of revenue, they privately are calling this an introductory rate, meaning that after the iRadio service establishes itself, they expect that rate to increase. Likewise, they also say they expect Pandora to match the deals they are doing now with Apple.
"We won't hold our ground when we have the advantage and Apple really needs us for launch. Oh, no. What we'll do, right, is wait until the service is established, and carrying itself along under its own sheer weight of numbers. At that point, when we've got massive sums of cash flowing in from Apple, we'll be in a really strong position to threaten to refuse to take that money any more unless they give us more. At the same time, with Apple crushing Pandora into near-obscurity, that'd be exactly the moment to ask Pandora to give us more of the less money it's making. Genius plan, eh, guys?"

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The very best of Liam Gallagher

6Music asked their listeners what they'd put on "the Ultimate Liam Gallagher playlist". Probably not a question you should ask an audience who actually care about music.

This week just gone

As Gennaro Castaldo moves from HMV to the BPI, here's his greatest hits: The ten most-read Gennaro Castaldo Watch stories ever, ever, ever:

1. Predicting Michael Jackson could comeback with the Crazy Frog's producer
2. Welcoming an attempt to treat file sharing like it was drink driving
3. A busy week mourning VHS, praising downloads, congratulating Embrace and suggesting Mike Flowers could hit the Top 10 with the Radio 4 theme
4. Talking up disappointing U2 sales
5. Pointing out that you don't get a Mozart 250th anniversary every year
6. Barking up a U2-Coldplay "chart battle"
7. Measuring the vibe around the Arctic Monkeys
8. Celebrating the cutting of the link between physical and digital singles for the charts
9. Unveiling the chip-and-pin enabled mp3 booths in HMV stores
10. Cleaning up after early-opening of HMV in York caused disruption in the streets

These were this week's greatest hits:

Camera Obscura - Desire Lines

Download Desire Lines

Houndmouth - From The Hills Below The City

Download From The Hills...

Quadron - Avalanche

Download Avalanche

John Foxx - Metadelic

Skinny Puppy - Weapon

Download Weapon