Saturday, May 31, 2014

'pon the playlist 2

For a comparison with the Radio One playlist-by-social-media-stats approach, it's worth reading what happened when Saga magazine met Jeff Smith, head of music at Radio 2, last month.

Radio 2's approach is a little different:

The sound of the station is defined and refined on a weekly basis at its crucial ‘playlist’ meeting every Wednesday. Here the producers of the station’s daytime shows pitch about 20 new songs from a list of around 70. In turn, each is assigned to the A (15-20 plays a week), B (7-10 plays) or C (2-5 plays) list.

Each DJ’s show producer has an input. Exceptions can be made: for example, if a particular musician is a guest on a show, then more of their music will be played. But, in the main, Jeff and his team decide on 99% of what is played on Radio 2 during the daytime.
That's not so very different to what happens at Radio 1. But the basis for decision making? That is:
While Radio 1 increasingly looks to social media and online popularity (YouTube, SoundCloud, Twitter) to help to decide which new acts to back, Jeff says Radio 2’s choices still stem from gut instinct. ‘We don’t need to have that sort of data to deliver what we’re doing,’ he says. ‘We don’t do any formal audience research.’

Radio 2’s audience is not rigidly segmented into ‘buckets’ in the way that most demographic-based audience research tends to be (55-64 over here, 65-74 over there and so on).
Understanding the audience, and knowing what works for them, rather than using YouTube views? Why, that's a recipe for, erm, ever-growing and happy listenership.

Friday, May 30, 2014

One Direction; two viewpoints

How "journalism" works.

Daily Star, first edition:

It's disgusting! Harry posting pictures of his cock (albeit in pants) to the internet! We're outraged on the public's behalf at Harry's behaviour!

Daily Star, final edition:
It's disgusting! Someone pretending to be Harry posting pictures of his cock (albeit in pants) to the internet! We're outraged on Harry's behalf!

(Side true story: Shortly after I took the second picture in Tesco, I rounded a corner to hear a girl complaining to her mother that there were no One Direction lunchboxes on display. She was looking for a sandwich box.)

When you get home, Johnny Borrell is waiting for you

It hasn't been a great twenty four hours for listening to the opinions of those with the initials JB. Joey Barton didn't exactly thrive on Question Time, while Tim Jonze in The Guardian struggles to shape Johnny Borrell's thoughts into some sort of shape.

What could you say as a solo artist that you couldn't with Razorlight?
Err … [long pause, repeats the question] I dunno, I always see more similarities than differences. Errrr … Shit. I dunno. I'm not sure I can answer that with any accuracy whatsoever. Erm, what was the question?
Borrell is a bit vague about the process that went into making his godawful solo album:
I got a group of musicians together and they turned up at my house in the Basque Country to record an album, expecting me to have a studio. But I didn't, I just had a house. We had this 17-year-old kid called João [Mello], who had just turned up from Brazil, playing saxophone.
Now, I might not know how things work in Borrell's world, but I'm pretty sure you don't find seventeen year-old musicians "just turning up" at your door by accident.

Still... Borrell's really pleased at this idea of just turning up, and doing it, in a house.
I didn't have a drum kit so we used buckets instead. Wherever we play – be it a street corner or a festival – there's something very real about it.
That's fair enough, right?

Except... here's Borrell feelings on the problem with modern music:
I think the art of recording is being lost.
That's a bit rich from someone who can't even been arsed to book a studio and find a set of drums.

Jonze then asks about the stupid song titles on the solo record. Borrell doesn't usually read the media, man, but he had read the piece in the Guardian about that:
Well, interestingly, my friend is in literature and she reads the Guardian. She read an article on your website and she said: "Wow, that's amazing, I've never read an article before where the first four sentences all end in an exclamation mark." Now, that's very poor writing. That's got to be bad journalism if your first four sentences have to end with an exclamation mark.
As Jonze points out in a footnote:
None of the first four sentences end with exclamation marks, although the last sentence of the article does end with four!!!!
"A friend in literature" who can't tell the difference between a dog's dick at the end of each sentence and - in a clear Harry Hill reference - an over-the-top four stick at the very end? Now, that's amazing.

He's clearly obsessed with the idea that The Guardian doesn't like him - a pop psychology read would suggest that Borrell is desperate that people consider him sharp, and worldly, and wise; that the Guardian spending a lot of time snickering at him must kill him.
In fact, while we're on the subject of the Guardian, there was somebody on the island, I don't know who, but they wrote a nice letter to the Guardian saying there was never a mention of Johnny Borrell without a mention of his arrogance. And they said that I'd been there for four months and they'd found me to be this and that. So who am I going to trust? The person I've engaged with in their community or the one who's written an article?
It's somewhat difficult to find this letter in the Guardian archive. Although it's amazing that Johnny "very, very rare that I read the press" Borrell managed to come across that piece as well.

Borrell seems convinced he's being asked "leading questions", like The Sun would ask. He's confused the idea of a difficult question with an awkward one.

If we're unlucky, he'll write a song about this. If we're really unlucky, a twelve year-old flautist will turn up at his yurt one day and we'll have to sit through a sodding concept album.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Peter Andre sets up a table in a shopping centre

Poor Peter Andre. Once he bestrode the world like a giant. Now, he doesn't even quite run to an in-store appearance. Instead, he's reduced to setting up a trestle table in the middle of a shopping street:

intu Milton Keynes has confirmed that celebrity, Peter Andre will be signing copies of his new album, ‘Big Night’ in the Shopping Centre on Tuesday.

He will be located between Hollister and Barclays from 2pm until 4pm.
They say "Intu Miltom Keynes"; they mean the Midsummer Arcade. Nobody is ever going to call it Intu.

This is odd as well:
Shoppers must pre purchase a copy of his album before having it signed, a proof of purchase will be required.
Eh? Given he's not in a record shop, why a proof of purchase? Are they afraid Andre is going to lead to a spate of shoplifting from HMV if they don't demand to see a receipt?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chip in and help make shambling history

Neil Taylor, former NME writer, is doing a kickstarter to fund a history of the C86 scene. One that goes further than just saying "Primal Scream, but look at Bobby's shirt."

The book will be a Demy hardback of high quality, something I can be confident of delivering since for the last 20 years I have been working in Publishing. The book will include some obscure and largely unseen images of fanzines and flyers from the time. Already, many artists, record label folk and fanzine editors have been incredibly generous in their support in terms of allowing me to reproduce these images and I am thrilled the book will also include some rarely seen and truly wonderful photographs by archivist of the scene, Paul Groovie, who took a number of photographs (The Television Personalities, The Pastels, The Jasmine Minks, etc) and made sound recordings at clubs like The Living Room in the very early days. He is the Alan Lomax of this period. The design project brains will be Simon Williams who is dreaming up a whole host of goodies, some of which are already listed in the rewards category.
He's about three quarters of the way through to his target, with 24 days to go.

'pon the playlist

There's something a little worrying about the report in The Observer which watches a Radio One playlist meeting. Can you spot it, I wonder?

A snatch of each song blares through speakers before Ergatoudis lists the artist's YouTube views, Soundcloud hits, Shazam ratings, Twitter followers and Facebook likes. "[Indie foursome] Wolf Alice's Moaning Lisa Smile video has had 15,000 views on YouTube and they've got 11,000 followers on Twitter," Ergatoudis tells the room. "James, you want to go first?"
There's a lot of this - records being weighed on how many Twitter followers the band has; the number of times a YouTube video has been played by man or machine; and so on.

A snatch of music, a bellyful of statistics. Surely that's the wrong way round? Surely Radio One should be playlisting music based on the track itself, rather than because it's already popular elsewhere? If YouTube views are the new chart, then this is like the playlist meeting in 1993 choosing records based on what Bruno Brookes had read out on the Top 40 the previous Saturday.

The Observer's Nadia Khomami asks Radio One's George Ergatoudis about this point:
It's faintly depressing to hear bands referred to as "brands" with their worth determined by online data. Stats is business talk. It isn't creative, it isn't art, it's box-ticking. It's playing people the kind of music that they're already listening to. Harding says, though, that there are exceptions to this rule. "There have been moments where we've been tempted to completely go against data. Clean Bandit have had the biggest single of the year so far and we booked them for a live lounge in January last year, purely on the basis that we had a feeling they were doing something special. They didn't have very much in terms of stats. And it took a year of us playing a sequence of singles for people to jump on to them - a lot of people think Rather Be was their first single but actually it was their fourth that we playlisted on Radio 1."
That this is an exception, rather than a rule, is something of a problem. Because if Radio One is basically deciding what to play using a 'what's already popular' formula, you might wonder why its target audience would bother tuning in.

"Hey, kids, listen to the radio - we've got all the songs you liked a fortnight ago, right here."

It's not the most exciting proposition, is it?

"Radio One: In YouTube's statistical integrity we trust."

Isn't Radio One's job to build the talent, rather than count the numbers?

Cher: Never changes, we'd recognise her anywhere

Cher, eh? With that clear, unchanging image, you'd never confuse her with anyone else...

(I know, I know, algorithms...)