Saturday, November 02, 2013

BPI, RIAA ignore licence terms on their website until it's pointed out to them

Interesting: copyright farmers the RIAA and their remote-controlled UK equivalent the BPI have been caught using code on their websites which violates the licences of that code.

TorrentFreak has been poking about in the source:

The websites of music industry groups RIAA and BPI also use infringing code.

On both sites we found open source JQuerys scripts that are released under the MIT license. This license permits any person or organization to use, copy, modify, merge, distribute, or even sell copies of the software. There’s only one condition users have to agree to; that the original copyright notice stays intact.

Ironically, the scripts used on the RIAA and BPI websites have the copyright licenses removed.

BPI uses the depreciated template script jQuery.tmpl.min.js, and as can be seen below, yesterday there was no reference to the MIT license or the copyright holder listed at the top of the file.
Oddly, after TF contacted the RIAA, the copyright line appeared magically on the RIAA and BPI sites.

The 1975 have a pop at Borrell

Hey, Matt Healy, we don't come down your factory stealing your work, do we?

Asked by The Guardian whether he worries about success turning him into a "complete wanker", Healy replied: "No, I don't. We're not worried about becoming a bunch of wankers because the people who become wankers were always gonna become wankers. Johnny Borrell is a wanker because he's a wanker, not because Razorlight got massive."
There's two problems with this thesis - first, Razorlight got fairly big, but a large portion of their status comes from it being incredibly useful to have a one-man punchline to hand. You can't let something like that slip through your fingers. In part, Johnny Borrell is well-known because he can be a bit wanky.

Secondly, while it's true that Borrell might have been wanky without having had a number one single over half a decade ago, can we be sure that he would have reached his peak wankiness without selling a few records to Ocean Colour Scene fans who'd decided to try to get themselves girlfriends?

If Borrell had, say, followed a career path to become an under-manager at a branch of Marks And Spencers, do we really believe he'd have his shirt off and a pair of white jeans on, pulling the 'battery hen Mick Jagger diorama' pose whenever he saw a camera? Seems unlikely.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fred Durst moves on to second TV series

There's no denying that Fred Durst is a pretty hot property in television right now. Why, before CBS have even aired a single episode of his much-ballyhooed sitcome Douchebag, he's off and busily developing a drama series.

While Douchebag, the sitcom that never made it to screen, was loosely based on Fred's life as a man who was too old to be doing what he does even when he was doing it back then, the drama - The Noise - will be loosely based on Fred's life.

Yes, The Noise. Oh, it's not even an open goal, is it? It's like he's putting the balls on the goal line, and then leaving the field entirely. THE NOISE.

Actually, it's not quite the same series - Douchebag was about a cartoon rocker who was trying to adjust to family life, while The Noise is about someone fleeing to cartoon rock to escape family life.

If the series is ever picked up, there will eventually be an episode where the Durst character pitches a sitcom based on his life.

It's CBS who will be looking at the script and wondering if it's best to just ask him to come back with a pitch for a quiz show based on Durst's life sometime round 2015. Presumably called Rockerz.

[Massive thanks to @Pedro_Dee for the tip]

Churches scoop Popjustice Prize

If they're over in one part of London praising the "best" album of the year, that means elsewhere, Popjustice will be hosting the annual £20 Popjustice Music Prize for best single.

They are better at choosing singles than the Mercury people are at choosing albums, as this won:

Luckily, nobody called them Crutches or anything, either.

Mercury Music Prize 2013 hit by awkward name embarrassment

There was an awkward moment during the live televising of last night's Mercury Music Prize, with a slip-up being made around the winner's name.

"It was mortifying" explained one of the judges. "We tried to say the name 'David Bowie' but somehow it came out as 'James Blake', who is, of course, quite a different person.

Seriously, you can understand Lauren Laverne accidentally muddling her nice-chap-but-dull-musicians up, because they have pretty similar names. All she did was replace "ake" with "unt" - admittedly, that would have been terrible if Cake had been the winners.

BBC World News' coverage of the prize last night ended with the optimistic claim that Blake can now expect a higher profile and a rise in sales. You could hear Speech Debelle's "huh" from this side of the Atlantic.

Blake has pledged not to piss the £20,000 prize money for Overgrown up a wall. But then he does have the aura of a man who has a portfolio of ISA investments, doesn't he?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Grimes defends playing in Russia because Putin wasn't going to go see her anyway, or something

With Russia an increasingly intolerant place to be bisexual, gay, lesbian or anything else non-Putin-approved, it was something of a surprise to see Grimes happily booking a date there. She has thought it through, though:

response to twitter criticisms of the show in russia

Yes, I am playing in Moscow in 2 days and no, i do not feel bad about it. I don’t think that denying and ignoring the gay community in russia is cool. I have gay friends in russia and the only strait person on the Grimes team is james as far as i know lol.

We are entering safely and it means the world to me to be returning 2 russia. It doesn’t hurt the government if I refuse to tour there. Just regular people. So i don’t think it’s wrong to be doing this. Refusing to go to russia would only hurt fans

also - this is a private event. fans should know that ill be back for a bigger show when i finish the record that will be open to the public

siiick so stoked! cya soon ^_^


Ah, it would hurt "regular people" to not play the gig which, erm, isn't open to regular people anyway. That's pretty clear.

Do we need to run through once again the way cultural boycotts work, or can we just assume that Grimes understands but doesn't accept the idea that when nations behave in unacceptable ways, you don't just pretend it isn't happening?

Grimes: very much the Paul Simon of her generation.

Jonas Brothers: They split

The most striking thing about the Jonas Brothers split is the video of the Jonases: looking for all the world like junior chief executives, the question was surely how they'd managed to keep things together for so long.

They didn't look like a band who had creative differences with each other; they looked like a group of people who had differences with the very idea of being creative.

It wasn't the end of a pop group; it was the release of three trapped people back into the community.

Let's wish them well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Katy Perry calls for pop stars to keep their clothes on

Katy Perry, talking to NPR, is starting to wonder if we're not seeing too much of some people too often:

And a lot of people see me as a role model but I’d like to kind of turn that around and say I appreciate that but I’d like to be seen as an inspiration. Because a role model, I think, will fail you. I mean, I couldn’t tell kids when it’s time for them to try things or do things. I mean, that’s not my role. But, you know, it’s funny. I do see myself becoming this, whatever, inspiration out of default right now, ’cause it’s such a strange world. Like females in pop – everybody’s getting naked. I mean, I’ve been naked before but I don’t feel like I have to always get naked to be noticed.
"I've been naked before" is something of an understatement from a woman who once shot whipped cream out of her bra.
I’m not talking about anyone in particular. I’m talking about all of them. I mean, it’s like everybody’s so naked. It’s like put it away. We know you’ve got it. I got it too. I’ve taken it off for – I’ve taken it out here and there. And I’m not necessarily judging. I’m just saying sometimes it’s nice to play that card but also it’s nice to play other cards. And I know I have that sexy card in my deck but I don’t always have to use that card.
It's good, I guess, that Perry is able to at least pre-empt the raised eyebrow by flicking through her previous photoshoots, but it still has the air of McDonalds chiding Burger King for selling junk food.

"I've obviously sold burgers, but it's good to know I don't have to sell burgers all the time" said Ronald McDonald, pointing to that one time a kid actually went for the carrot sticks.

HMV launches plans to defeat iTunes; realises it needs iTunes to be part of the plans

So, although it looked like it wouldn't make it through to offer confused elderly relatives a place to buy not quite the right CDs for the young 'uns this Christmas, HMV has survived in some form. Shrunk down, owned by a group known for restructuring; historical debts erased. Now, at last, the chain can focus on its unique selling point - being the only place you can go to buy recorded entertainment left standing. Right?

Hang on, they've just announced the completion of their image makeover. What did you guys come up with - something about your stores, right?

HMV has overhauled its online presence with a new, more editorially-focused site as it looks to re-exert its brand authority and customer experince through online channels.
Oh. Really? You're still thinking your a business which really has a future in being some sort of chatty webmagazine with some 'buy' buttons attached?

Why would you think that?
HMV chairman Paul McGowan said: “Everything we’re doing with HMV is focused on engagement, content and curation – all the things that HMV lost sight of in recent years.

“The passion within the business for the products we sell, the specialist knowledge and ability to recommend and guide our customers – from store staff to the team in head office – is second to none and the new brings that to the forefront.”
Did you ever go into an HMV before you bought the company, Paul? With all the best will in the world, nobody would ever have gone into an HMV store to ask musical advice from the staff, any more than you'd expect to get agricultural advice from the people who restock the dairy counters in Tesco. That's not to say that there weren't some HMV assistants who weren't passionate about music, but those that wee generally would have advised you to shop elsewhere.
The brand has recruited an editorial team to manage the site, while staff across the company’s chain of 142 UK stores will also be encouraged to contribute with content.
Given the PR disaster which followed HMV staff retaining access to official HMV channels that's quite a brave move.

However, at least this is something that you've fully thought through, right? It's not in any way a ragbag of half-formed ideas with a promise of better things to come, is it?
HMV general manager Caroline Pesch said: “As a hub for entertainment, a key element of the site is the sense of community and ease of use for finding local and relevant information. In addition to editorial features and reviews store staff can post their own picks and tips based on what’s happening on a local level. This is just phase one of the new site; as it develops we will be introducing lots more new and exciting functionality. The volume of content available will grow daily.”
Oh. Nothing says 'some stuff got written on a white board, and we think someone took a photo, and we're pretty certain there's something there we might be able to turn into some sort of web feature when we work out what the bloody thing says' like a vague suggestion that something "new and exciting" is coming in the future.

There's also an app, which Wired has heard all about:
[James] Coughlan, who was previously involved in building up Vodafone's digital music business, is first to admit that HMV has in the past "not really embraced the digital world in the way it should have done".
Yeah, that was Vodafone's digital music business that he built up. Because music is the first thing you think of when you hear Vodafone's name. Well, first thing after you've thought 'oh, the company that pretends its legally obliged to pay as little tax as possible'. And 'irritating bee commercials'. And 'spun off a military business'. But then, surely, you'd start to think about Vodafone's music.

There is, to be fair, a Vodafone Music twitter feed, which hasn't had a message since October 2nd. Erm, October 2nd, 2009. And just redirects to the Vodafone homepage. You can find out about Vodafone music, though, by searching on the site:
Vodafone Music has now closed
Vodafone Music is now closed, so you won’t be able to download any music from us anymore.
That's a pretty solid business built up there, then.

Never mind, though, James is now bringing his magic to HMV:
"What we're doing here by bringing a digital offering to market is we're amplifying what HMV's renowned for," he tells "I see this lifting our physical business as well, because you probably are going to have experiences where you're in store and you're scanning physical products and the digital version may be a couple of quid higher than the physical copy you've got in your hand."
Interesting. The idea of having an app which appears to tell you that HMV's pricing policy is all over the place. Not entirely sure how advertising that your digital downloads are overpriced is really going to help, but you can't fault the honesty.

Still, Coughlan is at least dedicated to the idea of digital music. Isn't he?
Coughlan still believes that nothing really compares to holding a physical record

But... he can at least tolerate the digital world, presumably?
"I fully support streaming and I think what it's done for the music business has been good. It's certainly ticked the box for the labels in being seen to act on what was going on over the last ten years with the likes of Napster and illegal downloads and doing their own education with the youth audience as to actually there is a value to music."
I'm not sure that sentence actually contained proper thoughts, so it'd probably be churlish to point out that Napster - the illegal version - closed down well over ten years ago. And that, arguably, streaming has done far more to undermine the traditional music business model by replacing the sense that music is a thing you collect and own than filesharing ever did.

Wired does praise something Coughlan has managed to arrange:
HMV has also managed to strike a deal with Apple that lets users download songs from the app straight into their iPhone's music library -- a first for a service other than iTunes.
Brilliant, right?

Except, almost as soon as the app launched last week, it vanished from the iTunes store. It turned out that if there was a deal with Apple, it fell apart pretty quickly:
Apple confirmed to The Guardian that the app was removed for "violating App Store guidelines", pointing to clause 11.13 in those guidelines: "Apps using IAP to purchase physical goods or goods and services used outside of the application will be rejected".
Early days for the fightback, though. And HMV does still have some stores on the High Street. Apple can't take that away from them.

Although a couple of the shops might be well placed for flogging iPhones from...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed: A quick round-up

The front page of USA Today this morning records the passing of Lou Reed:

'Underground' visionary dies at 71
The quote marks round underground probably a reflection that underground artists tend not to get front page coverage on their passing.

(Also: when someone is about to be buried, probably want to use word other than 'underground' to describe them.)

A lot of writers struggle to describe Reed's style - obviously, you know it when you hear it, but when you're trying to capture that for future generations, how do boil it down? The New York Times' Ben Ratliff attempts to pin it to Lou's early days deviating from doo-wop:
Not too long after his first recordings, made at 16 with a doo-wop band in Freeport, N.Y., Mr. Reed started singing outside of the song’s melody, as if he were giving a speech with a fluctuating drone in a New York accent. That sound, heard with the Velvet Underground on songs like “Heroin” and “Sweet Jane” and in his post-Velvet songs “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Street Hassle” and others, became one of the most familiar frequencies in rock. He played lead guitar the same way, straining against his limitations.
In the LA Times, Randall Roberts opens by admitting that, actually, it's all been said before, and much better, and more succinctly:
Those looking for one version of Lou Reed's life need look no further than to the late critic Lester Bangs, who presented a particularly harsh, if affectionate, take on the artist's story in a single sentence.

"Lou Reed is the guy that gave dignity and poetry and rock 'n' roll to smack, speed, homosexuality, sadomasochism, murder, misogyny, stumblebum passivity, and suicide, and then proceeded to belie all his achievements and return to the mire by turning the whole thing into a monumental joke ...," wrote Reed's longtime sparring partner Bangs in 1975.
It doesn't stop Roberts from having a go at adding to the pile himself, though:
Reed was the snake with the apple, bringing into rock's lexicon new thematic temptations — "Venus in Furs," "I'm Waiting for the Man," "Lady Godiva's Operation," "The Gift" tackle harsh truths — and fresh textures of noise.
Over at Slate, the occasion of Reed's passing is seen as the perfect moment to try and slap a label on his sexual orientation:
Soon after Lou Reed’s death at age 71 on Sunday, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend tweeted that the legendary rock star was “maybe the first out songwriter,” an allusion to his purported bisexuality. During his lifetime, Reed was famous for his sybaritic pursuits and unorthodox lifestyle. But was he bisexual?
This piece is headed "Was Lou Reed the first openly bisexual rock star?" That the piece doesn't earn its question mark by considering if there were any earlier openly bi musicians pretty much undermines its whole point: if you're asking a question if someone was an out bisexual, then pretty much not out. Reed, specifically when asked by Lester Bangs about bisexuality, said this:
The notion that everybody's bisexual is a very popular line right now, but I think its validity is limited. I could say something like if in any way my album helps people decide who or what they are, then I will feel I have accomplished something in my life. But I don't feel that way at all. ... You can't listen to a record and say, “Oh that really turned me onto gay life, I'm gonna be gay.” A lot of people will have one or two experiences, and that'll be it. Things may not change one iota. ... By the time a kid reaches puberty they've been determined. Guys walking around in makeup is just fun. Why shouldn't men be able to put on makeup and have fun like women have?
That quote, by the way, taken from the Slate article itself.

Clearly Lou had sex with lots of people, and didn't use gender as starting point. But equally clearly, he never chose to identify himself as bisexual. Ergo, he wasn't the first out bisexual rock star.

The Daily Mirror dips into Twitter to round-up reactions, and it's possible they read some of them before publishing, too:
Comedy writer David Quantick tweeted: “RIP Lou Reed. This, by him with John Cale, is one of the most beautiful things ever made.”
They don't have the video, or even a link to it. Without which, it doesn't make much sense, and does mean that the Mirror has effectively left Quntick as saying 'RIP Lou Reed'.

This is how that tweet should have looked:

Still, that's not the worst thing about the Mirror's coverage; while most Twitter reaction is lobbed onto a single page, one expert commentator's tweet gets a whole page to itself:
Lou Reed: Simon Cowell tweets that he is "so sad" to hear about death of music legend

Cowell's tweet followed another on his account which read: "you realise without great people you have nothing"
Having Cowell's opinion on Lou Reed is like hearing from a persistent stain what it feels about Persil.

Alexis Petridis in The Guardian tries an opening which is, in effect, a get-out-of-jail for any following overstatements:
When a famous rock star dies, there's a natural tendency among fans and journalists alike to overstate the late figure's importance: the former out of grief, the latter because it makes better copy.

In Lou Reed's case, that's almost impossible to do, just as it's almost impossible to imagine what rock music might sound like had the Velvet Underground never existed.
Almost impossible to overstate...
Elvis, Beatles and Dylan fans might be wont to disagree, but there's a compelling argument that their 1967 debut The Velvet Underground And Nico is the single most influential album in rock history. Certainly, it's hard to think of another record that altered the sound and vocabulary of rock so dramatically, that shifted its parameters so far at a stroke.

Vast tranches of subsequent pop music exist entirely in its shadow: it's possible that glam rock, punk, and everything that comes loosely bracketed under the terms indie and alt-rock might have happened without it, but it's hard to see how.
... but let's give it a go anyway.

Rolling Stone also really, really rates that 'and Nico' album:
"Produced" by Warhol and met with total commercial indifference when it was released in early 1967, VU’s debut The Velvet Underground & Nico stands as a landmark on par with the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde. Reed's matter-of-fact descriptions of New York’s bohemian demimonde, rife with allusions to drugs and S&M, pushed beyond even the Rolling Stones’ darkest moments, while the heavy doses of distortion and noise for its own sake revolutionized rock guitar.
Oddly, last year Rolling Stone was able to think of twelve better albums when compiling its greatest albums of all times. But of course Reed hadn't just died at that point. (It did allow it was bit better than Abbey Road, although not as good as Rubber Soul, and nowhere near Sgt Peppper.)

So, a lot of use of the word "dark", quite a bit about sex, a sudden elevation from 'fairly influential' to 'pretty sure he invented music, if not metal and also machines'. Reed always was a difficult person to nail down without breaking out Capstan-strength cliche.

The award for the worst piece of writing on the day of his death, though, must go to, in its rugby league coverage:
Tenuous links to the World Cup
Lou Reed's death was felt by distant relative (we think) Jack Reed. The Brisbane and England centre (Jack, not Lou) was ruled out of the World Cup due to injury.
Even allowing for the admission of a tenuous link in the headline, that makes no sense at all.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Legendobit: Lou Reed

It took me a while to warm to Lou Reed - probably because The Velvets were always spoken about in such hushed tones by the little-bit-older boys it was kinda off-putting.

(And the idea of warming to Lou Reed is a bit like cuddling a salt-lick in the first place.)

But one Sunday afternoon, listening to On The Wire, Fenny played a song, and I was riveted.

For me, New York will always be the definitive Lou Reed album. And this is why:

Lou Reed Dies at 71: Rolling Stone

[From five years ago: A Weekend In New York]