Monday, July 06, 2015

NME for free

The NME has confirmed, or admitted, that it is going to turn into a freesheet. It's a move that seems to be mashed up in some nonsense:

NME has today announced a major brand transformation.

As well as a new look NME.COM and new digital products, in September the famous NME weekly magazine will go free, with more than 300k copies distributed nationally through stations, universities and retail partners.

A statement to the media confirmed that music is "firmly at the heart of the brand" but there will also be "film, fashion, television, politics, gaming and technology".

The statement goes on to say that "NME will dramatically increase its content output and range, with new original as well as curated content appearing across all platforms, including print. Other highlights will include an expansion in live events, more video franchises and greater engagement with users on new social platforms".
You could see this as an announcement that, from September, NME will become a logo.

The idea of the magazine doing more than just cover music is interesting - obviously, it did that sort of thing very well back when it was about 75p a week, until people further up Kings Reach Tower saw what they were doing and locked them back down to just music. But we'll wait and see what they actually mean before we get too excited. I'm not expecting many 'Pat Kane on the semiotics of chocolate' style pieces laying around in a pile on the counters of Superdry.

Ben Cardew, who writes for the NME currently, isn't entirely convinced the magazine can pull off the trick:
The new, free NME faces significant challenges to reinvent itself as a musical gatekeeper for the digitally-enabled mass market. But the wave of emotion online – both positive and negative – in response to the news that it was going free shows that the magazine does at least continue to occupy a particular place in the British musical heart.

Then again, so did Smash Hits. And we know what happened there…
It feels like a radical change; much more radical than anything that's happened to the magazine since it abandoned newsprint. The first question is 'where will these magazines be available from'? The second is 'have they left it too late for this move?' The third is 'are they just going to be chasing the same advertising as the free Time Out with a similar sounding product'?

The fourth is: what is this doesn't work?

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: The stream flows uphill

Our old friend, Gennaro Castaldo - now chief insight-piper at the BPI - has popped up in Silicon Republic making excited noises about how streaming might help turn the decline of physical sales:

“The whole streaming thing, I think, has been a bonus that hasn’t been anticipated,” [he] says, suggesting that these UK results may well equate to similar findings in Ireland.

“It was thought it would carry on the digital trend. It has in one way, as more and more of us are doing it, but it has also permitted the idea that some people can buy music, too.”

Castaldo suggests streaming can actually be looked at as a shop window of sorts, pushing people towards actual purchases, although not to the level of before.

“No, it won’t be the mainstream activity, all of the time,” he said, “but there is potentially a new narrative where you can stream and buy physical. It’s allowing us to think of a new form of music consumption that might not have seemed possible when digital downloads had a decade of growth, fuelled by iTunes.”
The idea that people listening to music they don't actually own could lead to people going out and spending money on music isn't a crazy one. In fact, it's the same thing that most people spent telling the BPI would happen back in the days of the Napster Wars. The BPI wouldn't have it then, so it's nice that it's finally catching up to where everyone else was in 1999.

Obviously, there's a difference in a legal streaming service and a digitally sourced unlicenced track; the latter, the artist made absolutely nothing from the transaction, but with Spotify et al, the artist has to wait for a lot more transactions before their earnings reach even that level.

Man expresses different opinion; Breitbart gets excited

Greece is voting today on the referendum to decide exactly what their misery will smell like for the next few years, and naturally, there's a national debate.

Sakis Rouvas, who is a fairly well-known Greek musician, has come out as saying the public should vote 'yes', against government advice.

The always hilarious Breitbart website was thrilled with this, and swung into action:

Rouvas, who has dominated the Greek music scene for the better of two decades, has posted numerous statements on his Facebook account defying the Greek government, urging his fans to vote “yes” to accepting EU terms. Amid promotional material for his new ballad, “Fila Me” (“Kiss Me”), Rouvas is penning posts suggesting, “There is not only a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to divide us, but an deafening YES from the everyday Greeks who will redeems us”– a barb at politicians seeking to divide Greeks from Europe and, more importantly, from each other.
Now, I might be being unfair to Breitbart's Frances Martel - maybe she is something of an expert in Greek pop music. Sooner or later, the law of averages dictates that a writer for Breitbart will file an article on a subject on which they are knowledgable. My suspicion, though, is that Martel has no more idea about Rouvas' career than anyone else who has quickly looked him up on Wikipedia in order to file an article.

Actually, she might have a little less idea; as Wikipedia makes it clear that far from "dominating" the Greek music scene, Rouvas hasn't troubled the top ten of either the album or singles chart at all so far this decade.

And the sense that somehow expressing an opinion is "defying" the Greek government is ludicrous - perhaps Martel is confusing Greece with North Korea or how Breitbart believes America is, where public statements against the ruling classes result in disappearances.

In effect, the 'story' such as it is is roughly on a par with the way Mick Hucknall popped up during the UK election campaign to endorse the Tories. It tells you where the rich are; it reminds you that fading pop stars struggle to fill the days. And it reaffirms that Breitbart will run any old tosh that they can pump up to fit their worldview.

This week just gone

Social entryists: Where people land when they come from social networks (so far this year):

1. PRS hiring criteria
2. Toyota bungle social media; are delighted that we point this out
3. Liveblog: Brits 2015
4. Robin Thicke's nasty song was stolen
5. Bono suggests we see him as a 'businessperson' rather than 'amoral hypocrite'
6. Liveblog: Euorvision 2015
7. NME has British female-led music acts on the cover two weeks running, for the first time since 1984
8. High Court remove the right to rip CDs for personal use. In 2015.
9. Suede at Glastonbury reviews
10. Kasabian play to a largely indifferent BAFTAs

These were the interesting releases:

Everything Everything - Get To Heaven

Download Get To Heaven

Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool

Download My Love Is Cool

Emily Portman - Coracle

Download Coracle

Bikini Kill - The First Two Records

Friday, July 03, 2015

Twittergem: Like to like; retweet to retweet

Embed and breakfast man: Flo Rida & Audrey Roberts

It's what you've been waiting for - and by that I mean "you probably haven't been waiting for it" - Flo Rida and Audrey Roberts together for the first time:

Croonobit: Val Doonican

Few of my generation would have been able to hear of the death of Val Doonican without feeling a type of Saturday night we've long since lost.

There's a lot of warmth for Val around the web at the moment, so I'd just like to take a moment to salute perhaps his greatest achievement - he was the man who kicked Sergeant Pepper off the number one slot. And he did it with the superbly named Val Doonican Rocks - But Gently.

It's not quite the hot concept it sounds - in this collection of rock covers, Val found space for The Folks That Live On The Hill, a song which has never, ever been played by any act at Reading. But it's still a lovely curiosity.

It says something about Britain of that time - just as Vesta made a mass market out of taking spicy dishes, watering them down, and selling them on, Val did the same thing with rock music.

Val Doonican was 88. He died peacefully in Buckinghamshire, as many people in Buckinghamshire do.

I wonder how far down the whiteboard of names they got for this

"Johnson, our campaign to encourage kids to jiggle about to keep fit - how are you getting on with finding a pop star to front it?"

"Good news, sir, we've got someone who will be a big hit with the kids."

"Wonderful! Did we get Jessie J?"

"No, she was busy, sir. We had to move slightly further on from our first choice. But the good news is that we've got a huge name."

"Who is it, Johnson?"

"Well, let me say, if I say 'singing' and 'Saturday night telly', who springs to mind first?"

"You don't mean...?"

"Yes. I... hang on, I've just got an email about this very subject... oh. It turns out Val Doonican might not longer be available any more."


"I guess I can put in a call to Ricky Wilson's people. He's available."

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Rose McDowall's solo album is coming back

You know what? It's thirty sodding eight degrees outside and I'm hot, so I'm going to paste a press release in here and that's okay because it's worth reading, alright?

Born in times of difficulty and adventure, Cut With The Cake Knife is the debut album from Rose McDowall, solo-artist and ex-member of cult pop group Strawberry Switchblade. Originally recorded in 1988-89 and now re-mastered and getting the re-issue treatment from Sacred Bones Records (U.S.) & Night School Records (UK, EU)

Marking the beginning of an extensive archive project spanning Rose’s 34 year career, Cut With The Cake Knife will include unreleased recordings alongside unseen photographs and detailed new sleeve notes.

Recorded in various locations around the UK and Iceland following the break up of Strawberry Switchblade, the original 9-track Cut With The Cake Knife album featured songs written and demoed for the group’s fabled second album.

Rose McDowall began her career in her hometown of Glasgow, operating within the nascent punk scene with her first group The Poems. After a meteoric rise to pop stardom, which saw Strawberry Switchblade achieve chart success, world tours and global fame, McDowall’s relationship with partner and friend Jill Bryson disintegrated. The aftermath of her pop career saw McDowall earn a new reputation as an underground artist, collaborating with Coil, Felt, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound among others. Cut With The Cake Knife was recorded against this tumultuous backdrop and is one the most affecting collections of direct pop songwriting committed to tape.

The album opens with one of McDowall’s most heartfelt, honest moments: Tibet; a simple song written with absolute truth about the loss of friendship. For errant Switchblade fans it’s a prime example of why McDowall’s legacy is so important: shorn of unnecessary ornament, it’s one of many songs here that speak loudly and clearly about universal emotional states. Production values throughout lie somewhere between glossy, 80s studios and home-recorded demos but it’s a sound that only heightens the poignancy in McDowall’s voice: her best instrument and one that can evoke vulnerability, as in the near-angelic harmonies on Sixty Cowboys or swirling excitement as in the number 1 hit that never was, Crystal Nights. But perhaps her prowess is best summed up by the album’s title track, written for the 2nd Switchblade album yet thriving here, in which Rose projects a powerful protagonist, tinged with violence but still playful. At the heart of even the most upbeat, transcendently “pop” moments is a beautiful melancholy, a nagging heartache McDowall can call her own.

As Rose writes in the 2015 edition sleeve notes: “They’re real sad songs, about real life.”

Cut With The Cake Knife is out September 18th on Sacred Bones (U.S.) / Night School (UK / EU)
Could I make this 'exciting news/half-arsed post' even more so? Yes. Here's a YouTube embed:

When marketing fails

"Righto, so Jane Zhang could be the first genuine global pop star from China. We're ready to roll out a tour building on the initial buzz from an encounter with Simon Cowell. He's kind of the Xi Jinping of pop, so it works. We've worked up this idea to promote the tour. What does everyone think?"

"Yes, everyone smirks and says 'maybe it means something else in Chinese' - is that a good sign? I think it's a good sign."

Angry nuns against Katy Perry

The story of a group of nuns in LA who have sold their convent to a restauranteur, at the same time as the Church has sold it to somebody else, would be entertaining enough without the added extra that the Church has flogged the building to Katy Perry.

The nuns have now gone to court in a bid to stop Perry getting her hands on their private quarters.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cameron might torpedo Glastonbury houses

There's a shortage of affordable homes in the country. So it's brilliant that Michael Eavis is going to release a parcel of land in Pilton for a number of small homes-to-rent in the corner of the village.

Except now he might not. These new homes, and a number that have been built previously, are threatened by Tory right-to-buy policy:

[There is] a proposal to name 10 new cottages in Pilton after Margaret Bondfield, a trade unionist and Labour MP who in 1929 became the nation’s first woman Cabinet Minister.

Except the cottages may never be built, victims of the ­pernicious Tory plan to nationalise housing association properties and flog them at discounts of up to £77,000 or £102,700 in London.

I’m told Eavis isn’t prepared to release land if it could end up in private hands a few years later at a fat profit.
Understandably so. I say "understandably", although it's not clear that the government really understands.

Yesobit: Chris Squire

Chris Squire, bassist with Yes, has died.

The band released an official statement:

It’s with the heaviest of hearts and unbearable sadness that we must inform you of the passing of our dear friend and Yes co-founder, Chris Squire.

Chris peacefully passed away last night (27 June 2015) in Phoenix, Arizona.

We will have more information for you soon.

Thankyou for all your heartfelt tributes on Facebook and Twitter.
Talking to For Bass Players Only in 2013, Squire explained that his interest in music was actually divine intervention:
[My musical upbringing] was mainly in the Church of England, at my local church, where I was in the choir. I got very good musical training there because we had a very good choirmaster. He was very enthusiastic about music and he was young, so he made it really interesting for me and the other guys in the choir. By the time I became 15 and the Beatles broke, that shifted my reality from that kind of music to another kind of music! That’s when my rock & roll education started.
Equally, he credited some of his success to dodgy wiring:
Yeah, the headphone output I had was very tinny sounding. It didn’t have much low end on it. So the engineer at the time was surprised when the producer was saying, “I need to hear more bass, I need more bass,” because he wasn’t getting much bass on his headphones. He had decided to mix the album on headphones and that a lot to do with my general success, I think, because of that weak headphone socket. [Laughs]
Squire was generous and humorous in ascribing a lot of his (and the band's) success to luck and chance. Talking to Ultimate Classic Rock, he suggested that luck was an element even in the artistic freedom the band enjoyed:
I think we were just lucky that we were in a time when record company executives were more open to the artist’s approach and it wasn’t so reliant upon a producer, at least not in our case anyway. So we just were lucky to be in a niche I think and especially of course, Ahmet Ertegun had signed us personally to Atlantic Records, so he liked our vision and our experimentation that we were up to. There was nobody really on our case at the record company saying that we should be doing something like this or something like that. With the Roger Dean artwork and everything playing into the image of Yes [including] the triple live album Yessongs with the huge gatefold cover, we [also] had Ahmet’s support on all of that. It was pretty hassle-free as far as being told by the record company anything.
Luck? Or trust that came from being a band that knew what it was doing?

Chris Squire was 67. He died Saturday.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Glastonbury 2015: How did Suede go down?

Suede were astonishing last night - headlining the John Peel Stage. Obviously, having neither Lee Nelson or Kanye West on stage with them gave them something of an advantage, and obviously my waistline and hairline makes me a bit biased. So don't take my word for it. Here's a quick round-up of Suede reviews.

It's fair to say that the Western Gazette's reviewer hasn't exactly kept up with the band over the years:

Starting with two lesser known songs, Brett Anderson, Bernard Butler and co entered the stage as though they owned the place, with a studied nonchalance that they had more than earned as a band that at one point nearly did.
There was a lot of smoke and those flags blocking the camera views on the BBC coverage, but even so, I suspect the return of Bernard Butler would have been a bit more noticeable.

And, not wanting to carp, but... Mercury Prize. Three number one albums. Fastest selling debut album in a decade. That's a bit more than "nearly did", surely?

Anyway, the paper warms up:
And then, as the first few notes of megahit Trash were heard something suddenly snapped.

Lead singer Brett Anderson's standoffish manner was thrown aside and his utter delight to hear thousands of fans still remember the words became plain for all to see.
Comperes say a lot of things: but when the guy closing the tent after Suede exited told the crowds they had just watched the best performance of Glastonbury, I couldn't help but agree.
While the Telegraph's liveblog tried gamely to enjoy Kanye, they were getting reports the highlights were elsewhere:
Hard to believe, but people are watching other bands at Glastonbury now. Rupert is at Suede, maybe with all those people that signed the petition saying Kanye shouldn't play.

Rupert Hawksley: God knows what Kanye West is up to on the Pyramid Stage but it would be a miracle if he gets a response to any tune quite as raucous as the one just experienced at the John Peel stage as Suede rattled through Brit Pop classic, Trash.
The NME news desk tried to keep a sense of journalistic detachment, but couldn't quite:
1996 single 'Trash' was played early on in the set, followed by more Britpop favourites including 'Animal Nitrate' and 'We Are The Pigs'. The former track saw the first big singalong of the night. Anderson kept stage chat to a minimum, but did encourage the crowd to "fucking have it" during 'Trash', while he spent a large portion of 'Killing Of A Flashboy' writhing around the floor. An acoustic 'Living Dead' saw the frontman put his mic down to allow the audience to sing, and early single 'The Drowners' also drew a frenzied crowd response after Anderson performed much of it while hanging onto the safety barrier and greeting fans.
Disappointingly, The Guardian's liveblog was so obsessed with Kanye that it didn't manage to mention Suede at all. They should have listened to the Mid Devon Gazette, which recommended Suede as a fine alternative to a man who needed a helicopter to get on stage:
If however, you are staying in and are determined not to watch Kim Kardashian's other half, the BBC is devoting much of its schedule to all things Glastonbury tonight, so do a spot of channel surfing and you should be able to find some music more to your personal taste.

Cue a video of 90's favourites Suede who are on the John Peel stage at roughly the same time as Kanye.
Panic Manual reviewed the set from Toronto, where - apart from when those sodding flags got in the way - there was a great view:
wasn’t actually at Glastonbury, but rather, I was at home, in Toronto. Now before you question the authenticity of my review, I have assured you I have taken the appropriate measures to simulate Glastonbury as best as I can at home, including:

- Rain, it was pouring rain outside. I opened the windows so the sound of water coming down on the earth would resonate in the background as I watched the show. A sound many Glastonbury fans would be familiar with.

- I watched it on my 40 inch TV in high def, which frankly, makes me feel a lot closer to the stage then 95% of the people at the Peel stage
So, what are the advantages of this superior view?
Having access to cameras on stage, I could tell Bret and co were ecstatic about being at Glastonbury even Richard Oakes tried to muster a smile, maybe he saw a hot dog in the crowd or something.
That's just mean.

But is that really the best way to watch the gig? Is it?
The rest of the set read like a greatest hit’s list, including everyone’s favorite b-side about a heroin addict, The Living Dead. The crowd absolutely lost it when the group ended with Beautiful Ones, which had the crowd LALALALALAing so hard I could hear it through my speakers.

It was at this point I wished I was there and not my living room. Sometimes you just can’t replicate a live experience, no matter how you set it up. An encore set of She’s in Fashion and New Generation sent the crowd back to their mud filled, dirty tents happy. I would have cried if they brought an orchestra or something for Still Life, luckily that was not the case.
But if you're crying, you'd at least be crying in the privacy of your own home. I'm presuming you'd have shut the curtains first, anyway.

Getty let you embed images on blogs now, you know. Here's what people were either seeing on their home screens, or squinting at to spot in the melee of the crowd:



Gaaboard were watching:
Suede aren't great but they're singling without autotune and singing their hits which puts them about 10 places ahead of that twat on the Pyramid stage!!
It wasn't all faint praise, though:
Jaysus I think Suede are hitting the mark. Have seen them at Glasto twice. It just didn't work the year I seen them outdoors but I think they might have been hitting the needle a bit too much back then. Indoors they are immense.
The Singletrackworld board was also experiencing mixed feels:
Northernmat: Suede - meh, never really got them. Lead singer bloke looks old now.
Scamper: Lead singer of suede looking old? I take it you are about 20, Matt?
Let's give the last word to DigitalSpy commenter Barbeler:
Suede have saved Glastonbury as far as I'm concerned. It was a magnificent performance that made every other band I've seen so far look like dreary amateurs.

Glastonbury 2015: The impossible happened

Who knew that, faced with Kanye West headlining the main stage, it was possible for the density of the self-regarding worn-out unwelcomeds to increase from there?

But it did:

KANYE West's Glastonbury performance was interrupted by an intruder.

The rapper, who was performing on the pyramid stage on Saturday, was greeted by comedian Lee Nelson.
Do you still count as a "comedian" if you have one joke that is so tired it doesn't even wake up when on stage at Glastonbury?
Taking to his Twitter to explain his reasons for joining Kanye on stage, Lee wrote: "Some people were saying Kanye shouldn't headline Glastonbury so I thought I'd give him a hand."
That doesn't even make sense.
Choosing not to address the stage invasion, proud wife Kim took to her Instagram to post a picture of the rapper on stage, along with the caption: "Glastonbury 2015! Craziest show ever!!!!!"
Hold on a moment, OK magazine - maybe Kim was talking about the stage invasion there. Or maybe she didn't even realise that Lee Nelson wasn't part of the act. (Okay, it seems unlikely - if West was going to draft in a comedy stage invasion, there'd be some clunky piece of cross-promotion with a "project". At least Nelson wasn't promoting an energy drink or TLC reality show.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What to do with the new space opened up by the moving Chart Show

With The Chart Show disappearing down a hole round the back of old Mel's place ("moving to Friday teatimes"), Radio One suddenly has a two hour gap in its schedules on Sunday nights.

How would you fill such a space in the schedules?

I can't think of an idea.

Nor could Radio One, it turns out:

Radio 1 has announced a new Sunday show which will replace the current Official Chart slot when it moves to Fridays next month.

Hosted by CBBC presenter Cell Spellman, the new show will split into two parts, one devoted to new pop music with the other playing number one hits.
Spellman said: "The best station on national radio has been responsible for introducing me to so much incredible and varied music over the years, I just hope I can return the favour and help make those car journeys a little more memorable for the listeners with a mix of fun, top tunes and a little bit of cheeky chat!"
The reference to car journeys is a little odd - six on a Sunday is hardly prime Drivetime, is it?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The music industry stands behind Taylor Swift

Funniest sight of yesterday was a spokesperson from UK Music popping up on BBC News to praise the actions of Taylor Swift.

Almost as if they weren't representing the very music business companies who, when Apple demanded the three month free trial deal in the first place, just nodded and signed the paperwork.

Photographers versus Taylor Swift

After Taylor Swift won the battle with Apple to ensure that artists get to make money from their work, a photographer asked why her photographer contracts were okay, then:

“You say in your letter to Apple that ‘Three months is a long time to go unpaid,'” Sheldon writes. “But you seem happy to restrict us to being paid once, and never being able to earn from our work ever again, while granting you the rights to exploit our work for your benefit for all eternity…”

He goes on to say, “How are you any different to Apple? If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great… make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support. But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?”
Some people have been quick to defend Swift, saying it's unlikely that she's written the photographer contract. Which is true, but a person who is clearly in control of their career would at least have signed off on it.

The most egregious part of the Swift contract (itself not uncommon in the modern music industry) is that it gives Swift's management the right to smash people's cameras and equipment for non-compliance.

Now, the idea that a minor fracas over copyright could result in anyone deliberately destroying cameras might seem extreme, but it's not unusual. For example, if you purchase a ticket to a gig at, say, Southend's Cliffs Pavilion, the terms and conditions are written to allow staff to destroy your stuff:
The use of equipment to record or transmit audio and/or visual material inside the Venue is strictly forbidden. Unauthorised recordings, tapes, films or similar items may be confiscated and destroyed. Any recording made in breach of these conditions shall belong to the Venue and/or Promoter of the Event. Neither the Promoter nor the Venue will be liable for the loss, theft or damage to confiscated items.
As, increasingly, video and audio is being published to the web as it is consumed, either the Pavilion intends to march on Periscope servers with bats and torches; or else this is just basically a way to punish transgressors by smashing their stuff without any comeback.

Is Swift a hypocrite? Probably not - there's a wide difference between making musicians subsidise a major multinational's promotional campaigns and a photography landgrab, but it would be nice to see her take a lead in the question of photographer's rights in the same way she's taken on Apple.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Twittergem: Niles Rodgers

Some people's commutes this morning are substantially better than yours:

D'Angelo wants music to get smarter

You might not have thought D'Angelo was ever going to change the world, but he might yet surprise us all. He's returned to music in the last few months, and is disappointed how detached it's become from modern society:

"I grew up on Public Enemy, and it was popular culture to be aware,” D’Angelo said."People were wearing Malcolm X T-shirts and Malcolm X hats. It was a very cool thing to know who Malcolm X was. It was all in the lyrics. It was trendy to be conscious and aware. Now the trend... it’s just [expletive]. But to tell you the truth, there are a lot of people who feel the same way that I feel and that are making great music, conscious music."

"But for some reason or another it seems like the gatekeepers are not allowing that stuff to filter through to the mainstream. Kendrick Lamar, he’s an example of someone who is young and actually trying to say something. Who else? You got Young Jeezy and Young Thug. You know what I’m saying? It’s stupid. It’s ridiculous," he continued.
The is D'Angelo. Whose biggest hit had lyrics that went like this:
You're my little baby, my darling baby
I swear you're the talk of the town
And everybody wants to know what's going down
Babe, I know they've seen us before
Maybe at the liquor store, or maybe at the health food stand
They don't know that I'm your man
The man who is known for a song about how people might not realise he was in a partnership even although they'd go to buy quinoa together is calling you out for being empty and stupid, modern music. He's suggesting that writing a song about holding hands in a Trader Joe's would be better for society than your current output. And you know what? He's kind-of right.

In which Taylor Swift has a point, and wins the day

You'll have read this elesewhere, by now, but Taylor Swift's gentle-but-firm open letter to Apple (alright, open Tumblog) does gently nail Apple and leave them hung out looking like greedy butt-danglers:

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.
The historically generous company which, for example, could have quite happily offered a discount on iMacs to educational institutions but chose instead to create a lower-spec model.

But could a flattering approach, even from Taylor Swift, work?

Actually, yes. It worked:
Now Apple says it will pay artists for music streamed during trial periods.
"We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple," tweeted executive Eddy @Cue.
Of course, it's not so much the candy coating of Swift's letter that worked. It was the greed-shaming of putting right in the front of people the idea that it was musicians and songwriters who were actually paying for that three month free trial, not the cash-rich Apple.

Being shamed by a popstar. Thank god that can still happen - but it's still shabby it took Taylor Swift for Apple to understand they were pulling a shit move.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Charlotte Church: "Woman has accountant" shocker

Let's turn to Guido Fawkes. Guido persists in using his pseudonym as if we don't know he's Paul Staines, like a crap unmasked superhero still booking hotel rooms as "QTipMan" even although the receptionists always reply "okay, Mr. Staines, that's booked for you now." And he's managed to parlay his blog into a column in the News Of The World - the paper which still uses the pseudonym The Sun On Sunday. It's from this let's pretend world that he's tried to attack Charlotte Church following her appearance at the anti-austerity march yesterday.

Staines lives up to his chosen pseudonym, of course. Much as Fawkes was a dupe who got to do the dirty work of richer, more powerful types and ended up looking like a nasty piece of work, so too Staines trots out an attack line to try and deflect criticism of the government.

His problem with Church? Why, she calls for closing of tax loopholes, and yet... sorry, what was the pisspoor attack line again?

After joining the People’s Assembly against Austerity – whose aims include ‘increasing taxes on the super-rich’ and ‘closing tax loopholes’ – perhaps the Cardiff crooner turned campaigner should look at her own economy.

Church is the director of five companies that are all registered to the London address of Thomas Harris Accountants.

“Lowering and deferring tax is, of course, a key aim” boasts the firm’s website, by “taking advantage of allowances and reliefs of which many people are unaware.”
I don't think that there's a single major accountant which doesn't offer to minimise tax for its clients, and I don't think there's anyone who has a company that doesn't require some sort of accountancy service. So, really, this is on a par with going "well, David Attenborough calls for a reduction in fossil fuel use, but he has a car which uses petrol."

If Forkstaines has something solid - Church deliberately booking gigs in Bratislava for tax write-offs; a massive scheme to use foxes to channel cash through Nutwood; something like that - maybe there's a story there. But going 'oh, she wants tax loopholes closed and yet she has someone do her taxes for her who knows tax law' is weak, even from someone who clings to an outdated pseudonym.

High Court has just turned your iPhone into a crime scene

Remember when back in 2014 the government realised that having a law against people ripping their own CDs to put on digital players was absurd, and tidied up the law?

The High Court has reversed that change, and believes that if you own a CD and wish to listen to the music on your iPhone, you will meekly go online and pay for the thing all over again:

The ruling says that governments can't make exceptions to copyright law without compensating rightsholders for the "harms" from the changes; because the UK government didn't demonstrate that ripping CDs doesn't cause harm to rightsholders, and because it didn't impose a levy to compensate for "harms," the legalisation of ripping (which, incredibly, only took place in the last Parliament) is now invalid.
Yes, lawyers from the Music Industry have convinced judges that when Person A slips Now That's What I Call Music 56 into their drive, if they weren't doing that, they'd be somehow buying the tracks instead.

Obviously, it's a stupid decision, made by a legal system that has apparently never met a person, but it's also a ruling that will be completely ignored. It's not as if prior to 2014 people looked at their pile of CDs, looked at their iPod, and thought "well, if only the law recognised that I own the music and the only distinction is whether the digital playback is instantaneous or later, I could pop those on my device."

And it's probably for the best that the world will ignore this rule - the police force has been so hollowed out under Theresa May's rule that they can barely manage to turn up to a crime in progress, much less pop round on the rumour that someone has put their Clean Bandit single on their Galaxy G4, so it's going to make scofflaws of most of us.

But if the law was applied, the logical behaviour would be to say 'if I have to pay twice, well, screw that. The more flexible choice is to go with digital, so I shall stop buying CDs altogether, and instead go with cheaper digital versions. But hang on, as I'm not buying a physical album I only need to buy the two tracks I really want. Actually, come to that, why am I going to buy anything? I can just use my Spotify account if all I want to do is listen digitally."

Effectively, the big brains of the Music Industry have gone to court to argue that the added value of their premium product be outlawed. Maybe the judges aren't so out of touch - perhaps they've just come up with a smart way to fine an industry for its vexatious lawsuit.

This week just gone

The most popular search terms bringing people to No Rock this month:

1. "share some of your bookmarks with the world, and keep"
2. lil url generator
3. glyn jones arctic monkeys
4. erica lahn
5. salt and vinegar crisps
6. sam butcher
7. no rock and roll fun
8. simon bates
10. meg white net worth

Bubbling under: jaime harding, the value of university education, jason donovan tshirt iphone 4 case

These were this week's interesting releases:

Sarah Cracknell - Red Kite

Download Red Kite

The Selecter - Subculture

Download Subculture

Kathryn Williams - Hypoxia

Download Hypoxia

Keston Cobblers Club - Wildfire

Giorgio Moroder - Deja Vu

Download Deja Vu

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bookmarks: Cerys Matthews & Wham!

In a second slice of regional press/80s nostalgia for the morning, the South Wales Echo has been making Cerys Matthews relive the trauma of her first gig. Wham!, as it turns out:

“My sister was a bit older than me and I remember her saying, ‘You’ve got to come with me to the Top Rank in town or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life,” says the 46-year-old mum-of-three from Pembrokeshire, who's co-presenting the coverage of next weekend's Glastonbury festival for BBC6Music.

“It was in the early ’80s and I must have been about 12 or 13 at the time - it was during Wham’s first proper tour and they’d made a name for themselves by wearing tight white shorts and doing unconventional things with shuttlecocks.”

Bookmarks: Duran Duran

Superb work from the Newcastle Chronicle website, which has dug into its archives for the story of the time Andy Taylor opened a wine bar called Rio in Whitley Bay:

And the following year we reported on an even more bizarre problem.

“Panic broke out at the Tyneside wine bar owned by Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor when someone freed man-eating piranha fish from their tank,” we said.

“Bar staff at Rio rushed to rescue the fearsome fish, which eat human flesh, by scooping them into pint pots from between the feet of horrified customers.

“No one was bitten, but a few customers received an unwelcome soaking when 200 gallons of water in the tank gushed out.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Glastonbury 2015: When legs snap

The line-up for Glastonbury now has a scary TBA in the Friday night headline slot, with the Foo Fighters pulling out as Dave Grohl's leg is so badly broken.

If it was me, I'd shift Mark Ronson across to the main stage undercard and let Florence headline. In fact, I'd probably have let Florence headline even if Grohl hadn't snapped his leg.

Donald Trump's campaign runs into trouble right at the start

It's not unusual for a presidential candidate to get into difficulties with their musical soundtracks - mostly for using songs without permission.

I think Donald Trump - very much the Zeppo of this year's Republican hopefuls - has broken some sort of record, having got slapped down virtually before he left the stage announcing his - admittedly amusing - candidacy.

"Heh" Trump must have thought, "I've only just said that I intend to clutter up the 2016 race with my limited understanding and honking outrage routine, and already my email box is pinging. I wonder if this email is from a wellwisher, or a rival throwing in the towel. Let's check."

Official Statement from Neil Young:

"Donald Trump was not authorized to use "Rockin' In The Free World" in his presidential candidacy announcement. Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America."
Trump sighs. He had really wanted to go with Barrett Strong's 'Money', but didn't feel America was ready to vote for a black Republican Presidential theme song.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bono goes to Canada

Bono has taken time off from 'rationalising' his tax affairs to go and tell Canada how to spend their taxes.

But let's not focus too much on Bono's tax affairs, and wonder instead about his politics.

While in Canada, Bono praised how great the current government's commitment to overseas development is:

Bono remained above the fray, striking an upbeat note as he arrived on Parliament Hill repeating his mantra of "the world needs more Canada."

"Development assistance, or foreign aid as you call it here, is a really good way of showing who you are to the rest of the world," Bono said, surrounded by fans and well-wishers.
Stephen Harper's government is currently providing just 0.24% of GDP to its aid budget. This gets a visit from Bono and a lot of warm words in the press.

Oddly, though, when Paul Martin's aid budget was at 3% in 2005, Bono issued angry statements and called him out from the stage at a U2 gig.

That's strange, isn't it?

Smashmouth: Buns don't kill people; people do

Smashmouth's dwindling career has reached the point where they're now playing The Taste Of Fort Collins, a college town food-fest.

It didn't end well, either as, as if the good people of Colorado were channeling The Great Hall at a public school, the band were hit will a hail of bread rolls. The band didn't take it with good grace:

Think on, Steve Harwell. Give it a couple more years, you'll be hoping that the audience throw you some food during a set.