Saturday, March 29, 2008

Universal gets a little Buzz

Interesting little snippet: Universal has thrown some cash in the direction of Buzznet, although through its Interscope label - which suggests it's a smart move by someone away from the centre of the company rather than a strategy devised by the lumbering giant itself.

It also appears that Buzznet have, through some share-shuffling, taken full ownership of Stereogum. Naturally, the 'gum will declare the link with Universal when writing about Universal artists... won't they?

50 Cent blames clock for flop

The very real possibility that 50 Cent's Curtis album sold underwhelmingly because he's lost whatever the it was that he once had doesn't seem to have occured to him, although he does admit he delivered a pup:

"It was a blockbuster that I lit, and it didn't explode,” the rapper said. “I felt like it should have went a lot further than the results I received.”

We're not quite sure why one would light a blockbuster, or, indeed, if something can be a blockbuster that doesn't explode, and it's clear that Cent is still trying to puzzle out why it didn't work.
“I feel that 50 Cent fans don't believe it was a dud,” he told MTV. “It did have 'I Get Money’, it did have 'Ayo Technology’, 'I'll Still Kill’, 'Follow My Lead' with Robin Thicke.

“These records were hit records, but the timing they came out was wrong.”

Aha. Timing. The record was a blockbuster, it just didn't sell because of time and not because it wasn't very good. And probably because of other people's faults, too:
The rapper admitted that had the record been marketed differently by his record label before its release it would have sold “more millions in sales.”

Yes. If, for example, they'd wrapped it in a sleeve with a picture of Kanye West on, it;d have sold many, many more millions.

Dave Grohl's political corner

So, it turns out that Dave Grohl's support for John Kerry at the last US elections wasn't entirely wholehearted:

During the last election I supported John Kerry on the campaign trail not as the guy from the Foo Fighters but as a citizen concerned about the future of this country. I did it because the Bush campaign was using some of our music at their rallies, and I didn't feel like the songs they were using made sense in the context of the message he was delivering. I couldn't stop them from using them; there's legally nothing really you can do. So I thought, Well, I'll go out and sing those songs at Kerry rallies, where they seem to make more sense -- songs about love and hope and compassion.

Oddly, he doesn't then go on to explain about his motivation behind playing gis in support of campaigners who claimed that HIV and AIDs were unrelated. Perhaps he'd heard some people with actual medical knowledge playing his songs and wanted to counterweigh against that.

Hustler: Laughing in the face of teen pregnancy

We suppose, to be fair, the idea of superimposing Jamie Lynn Spears' face on a promo poster for Juno is mildly diverting, but it's not as funny as Hustler seem to think:

Hustler's Editorial Director Bruce David says, "We just couldn't let this one slip by us! The pregnant 16-year-old sister of Britney Spears, it's too perfect! You can't make this stuff up!"

You can't make this stuff up? Yes you can - look:

Kevin Federline is going to have a baby with Lindsay Lohan

See? You can make this stuff up. It's very easy.

Although the general level of inventiveness at the magazine suggests that maybe they can't. This is the sort of thing they've done:
Kevin Federline, who is accredited as saying, "Even I wouldn't have fucked Jamie Lynn... unless there was some cash in it."

Yeah, she might be Britney Spears' sister, but she's still a sixteen year old girl. Is that really a fair thing to be publishing?

Gahan insists: it was an accidental OD

Apparently Dave Gahan is annoyed that people still put his drugs OD down to a suicide attempt when, really, he just was rubbish at measuring out his drugs:

"I'm painfully aware that was not what I was trying to do. All I was trying to do was disappear for a while, and that became a lost weekend."

Yeah, it must really irritate that people think you took a speedball to kill yourself rather than just because there was nothing on HBO that evening.

Darkness at 3AM: Worst. Headline. Ever. Again.

The Mirror really needs to think about how it publishes the 3AM content online, doesn't it? Somehow, it's managed to generate an article with the headline (and, indeed, only linking material) "Radio 1 DJ Reggie Yates".

The team are also pushing the Becks not invited to Rooney wedding story that everyone else had a couple of days ago, and the ratings for Britney's How I Met Your Mother ratings, which were published on Thursday. Presumably the idea is that if you read the Mirror these days, you're not exactly going to be in the loop.

They even end the Britney piece:

Well Brit, you did it again.

Which besides being a lazy reference for a Britney Spears article, doesn't even sound like the song title and doesn't really make sense. When did she last add a couple of million viewers to sitcom audience?

Gordon in the morning: The wedding planner

Some hefty backpedaling this morning as Gordon attempts to explain why the French wedding of Coleen and Wayne might not happen, despite having told us it was all planned. It turns out there's rules in France:

[T]he biggest stumbling block is the fact they would need to prove they had been residents in the town where they marry for at least 40 days.

Just in case it does happen, Gordon allows there's a workaround:
The source added: “There are ways round this, like renting a flat in their names for a month or so before the marriage."

And then Gordon's source gives another get out in case it doesn't happen:
“But that can get complicated and, of course, expensive."

This, remember, is a wedding that Gordon was confidently predicting will cost three million quid. Now he's telling us it might be scuppered because Rooney wouldn't spend a couple of hours' wages hiring a one-bedroom flat above a suburban bakery to keep it all on track?

Elsewhere, Gordon has a picture of a young Lily Allen wearing some headphones. It's interest, such as it is, is that it's a picture of a young Lily Allen wearing headphones. In other words, the sort of thing that Keith might find in a shoebox, have a little smile, and then put back in the shoebox. For some reason, though (that reason being 'not actually having very much stuff to put in his column') Gordon decides to run it, and then has to try and think of a reason for publishing it:
Lily Allen's fame was inevitable

LOOKING at this vintage LILY ALLEN snap, it seems she was always going to be famous.

It shows the Smile singer as a child on stage at posh Millfield School in 1996.

The second pic is the star out and about in North London yesterday.

Not much has changed if you ask me...

A snapshot of a child wearing headphones shows "fame was inevitable", does it Gordon? In what way, exactly?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Talking of free downloads

Spaceage heartbreakers Ladytron are punting a free download of Black Cat as a way of drawing you attention to the rather hefty line-up of US dates they've got planned:

20 - Edmonton, A.B. @ The Starlite Room
21 - Calgary, A.B. @ The Warehouse
23 - Vancouver, B.C. @ Commodore Ballroom
24 - Seattle, Wash. @ Showbox
25 - Portland, Ore. @ Wonder Ballroom
27 - San Francisco, Calif. @ Fillmore
29 - Los Angeles, Calif. @ Henry Fonda
30 - Los Angeles, Calif. @ Henry Fonda
31 - San Diego, Calif. @ The Belly Up

2 - Salt Lake City, Utah @ In The Venue
3 - Denver, Colo. @ The Gothic
5 - Dallas, Texas @ Palladium Ballroom
6 - Austin, Texas @ Stubbs
7 - Houston, Texas @ Meridian
8 - New Orleans, La. @ House Of Blues
10 - Orlando, Fla. @ Club Firestone
11 - Tampa, Fla. @ Czar
12 - Miami, Fla. @ Studio A
13 - Atlanta, Ga. @ Variety Playhouse
15 - Manchester, Tenn. @ Bonnaroo Festival *
16 - St. Louis, Mo. @ The Pageant
17 - Chicago, Ill. @ Vic Theater
18 - Detroit, Mich. @ St. Andrews Hall
25 - New York, N.Y. @ Terminal 5
26 - Philadelphia, Pa. @ Theater of Living Arts
27 - Baltimore, Md. @ Sonar
28 - Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club
30 - Boston, Mass. @ Paradise

2 - Montreal, Q.C. @ Metropolis (Jazz Fest)
3 - Quebec City, Q.C. @ Theatre Imperial de Quebec (Summer Fest)
4 - Toronto, O.N. @ Harbourfront Centre

New Old things

The Old 97s have been quiet for a while. Stone quiet for four years, in fact. They're back now, though: there's a new album, Blame It On Gravity, and as part of the run-up, a free mp3. We say free: they want your details in return for a free download; sign up for mailings, and you'll get a video for free in a couple of weeks, too.

Lambs, to no slaughter

Having pulled off the trick of being almost universally despised by his station's key audience, 6Music are doing their best to shore up George Lamb's show. They've made a TV trailer which actually manages, in thirty sections, to encompass everything that's wrong with him. It even ends with him bellowing "Shabba".

Now, let's be generous and assume that Lesley Douglas is serious in her desire to attract more women to her network by employing Lamb (and, erm, a man in a fake badger head). And she believes her target female audience were put off by 6Music being a blokey, music-fact strewn network. Is running a tv shot of two blokey blokes flinging CDs into car players and doing that stupid touching-fists greeting is going to attract them where Gideon Coe couldn't?

An internet diversion

Have you ever wondered what Conor McNicholas carries in his handbag?

Camel stubs out South

Good on South, who took up the offer of a Camel-sponsored slot at SXSW but - to not sell out the The Man (or, in this case, the Emphysemic Camel) told the audience to not smoke. As a joke. Because it's bad for you.

Camel - who, let's not forget, are obliged by law to put a statement on their fag packets that says 'don't smoke, it's bad for you' - didn't see the funny side, and decided to withhold payment.

It turns out that the gag cost South quite a lot - they were meant to be recompensed for traveling from London to Texas. Ten grand's worth.

Legal action is now being considered.

Soulja Boy pulls tour

Latter-day Wordsworth Soulja Boy has canned his forthcoming US tour as he needs to work on his album, he says.

Although, of course, what sort of idiot cancels a cash-making tour to concentrate on a loss-chasing album in these times?

All the parents of America expressed disappointment that their children will miss the opportunity to hear about Boy's enormous penis and his indiscriminate use of rape; many are now looking for other ways to desensitise their kids.

Swinging the Led

Has, as the headline on suggests, John Paul Jones really hinted a possible new Led Zeppelin album?

Let's see:

Asked specifically about the possibility of a new album, he said, "I'm not sure. I'm not too certain about anything right at the moment. I've got no idea what's going to happen. But I'd certainly like to play with Jimmy [Page] again."

This doesn't make the headline false:
Led Zeppelin may release new album

But it's not entirely accurate - on a par with 'leopards may one day learn to talk', isn't it?

Warners attempt to force ISP tax

The increasing push for a television licence fee style taxation on broadband accounts in US has just got itself a paid evangelist: Warners have hired Jim Griffin to think ideas about how it could work, how the money would be collected, and how Warners Music Group can keep getting its beaks wet from this one.

Of course, it's a terrible idea - it would take an almost unimaginable bureaucracy to organise the payments required. Yes, with a few thousand radio stations, you can track which songs are being played and who made them. But with billions of tracks swooshing about the net, and with seeders and downloaders living in different territories, and some tracks being provided for free and some not: how would anyone make sense out of it?

It's also ridiculous for the record labels to be seen as an important part of this process. We know that they wish to - for good reason - but if the idea is to stimulate and reward artists, then why build in a role for record labels based on their expertise at a different sort of media? Sure, they should be rewarded for the share of stuff they own, but not given any more importance in the negotiations than anyone else.

Most importantly, do the labels realise what a Faustian pact they're offering? The moment such a deal is in place, their catalogue instantly becomes worthless. People who don't download now will have no qualms about slurping anything and everything and - while the labels might think they're proposing some centrally mandated subscription service - people will see it as an open door to download and retain and do with as they please. No more locks of any sort. Is that what they really want?

It should never happen, anyway. Why should people who use their broadband for other purposes - not everyone downloads peer-to-peer music - have to pay a tax to prop up private corporations who failed to reorganise their businesses in time? If record companies get a five bucks tax, will film companies? TV broadcasters? Producers of books that have been scanned online? Porn companies?

Porn companies. This will be the sticky point: if anyone signs into law a mandate obliging ISPs to collect cash to recompense record labels for their material leaking about the net, they would also have to do the same thing for porn companies who make legal-but-sexual product. There's no justification for not doing so. And which politician really wants to become known as the man who created a flat-rate porn tax to be levied on every man, woman, child, vicar and virgin who has a broadband connection?

First recording unearthed

Michael M asks us if we reckong the RIAA will sue the New York Times for uploading the first track ever recorded.

This, of course, is the recording of a French woman singing Au Clair de la Lune that got Charlotte Green giggling on Today this morning; unfortunately during an obituary item.

The recording dates from 1860, when it was made by Edouard Leon Scott de Martinville. It had been reviewed by Maxim in 1859, who gave it two stars.

Madonna off the rails

Back at the end of the 80s, the now-very-defunct Blitz magazine ran a picture where Madonna's head was cut in half and one side of Thatcher's stuck in its place.

It looks a little like this might have been an actual photograph rather than a photomanipulation, as Madonna really does seem to be turning into Thatcher. She even now shares a boogerman with Thatch, in the shape of Ken Livingstone:

"Will Ken Livingstone get my vote? No. The traffic in London is worse than ever now. All Red Ken wants is roadworks going on everywhere."

Yes. She called him Red Ken. Like it was 1983. I was half-expecting to hear some praise for the work of the London Residuary Body.

She doesn't say if she'd vote for the casually racist and homophobic human lampoon Boris Johnson, although we know she wouldn't. Nor would she vote for Red Ken, even if she agreed with him. What with being an American citizen and all.

The reason for all her ire at Red Ken? Besides Red Robbo and Scargill being off the scene when she needs some good socialist-kicking? Apparently it's London transport policy:
The singer, who has a London home, said traffic was worse than ever in an interview with Q magazine.

Ah. It's because transport is bad, and not because Madge has to fork out for the congestion charge, then. She also claims that the Tube isn't usable - as if she'd really love to be hopping on the underground but simply can't stand the delays. When did anyone ever see Madonna on the Tube? How would she know it's so bad?

Madonna then outlines her big idea:
"I would make it so that young musicians, aspiring musicians wouldn't have to pay the congestion charge or pay taxes."

Yes, that'd work. Never mind the fact that musicians at the start of their career will be broke, travelling by public transport and not earning and not paying taxes anyway, let's create a system where people claiming they're following one form of career path. Why should musicians be exempt and not, say, potential doctors, or nurses, or bus drivers?

And if aspiring musicians are to be left out of the taxation pot, would successful musicians therefore pay a higher rate of taxation to acknowledge the support the state has provided for them in helping them achieve success? Is Madonna happy to have her tax rate increased to pay for the plans?

Fired, without a UB40

There's a beautiful piece in today's Times on the UB40 split. Pete Paphides (when did he drop the 'r'?) talks to Ali Campbell and tries to cut through the distrust and bitterness of the split to get to the truth. And for all Campbell's openness, it's a quote from UB40 drummer James Brown which sounds the most convincing:

“The truth is UB40 were no longer prepared to fund the extravagant lifestyles of two band members. After being given an ultimatum by both Ali and Michael [Virtue] to sack our staff, some of whom have worked with us for nearly 30 years, we chose to ignore their ultimatum and they chose to leave.”

Campbell, impressively, manages to combine name-dropping with bitterness:
On [Campbell's solo album] Running Free’s arrival in the UK Top Ten last October, he said that Paul McCartney was quicker to offer his congratulations than any of UB40. “All I got was a text off Norman [Hassan, the trombonist] that said, ‘Well done Piggy.’” Campbell’s nickname, presumably? “Yes. Well, it used to be.”

Sadly, no further light is allowed to fall on Macca's congratulations - did he call? Was it a chance meeting in a bistro somewhere? Was there a counterstrike, with James Brown rushing to get a telegram to Heather Mills applauding her progress through Dancing With The Stars?

The highlight of the encounter, though, is Campbell pretty much dropping his old chum Chrissie Hynde in it:
Just as telling, though, is the sense of a man keen to reassure himself that he has made the right decision. He points across the corridor to a studio where Chrissie Hynde – who duetted with UB40 on their version of I Got You Babe – recently rehearsed.

“She saw my band and said how brilliant they sounded. Then she says: ‘I’ve almost had it with my band as well. We went into the studio and it just sounded like the Pretenders . . . and who wants to hear that apart from four fat lesbians in Ohio? I wanna do what you’re doing.’ ”

We're sure Hynde will be delighted to be recorded as suggesting the Pretenders fanbase is restricted to the obese Sapphics of Akron. As, indeed, will her fanbase. Having done his bit to shake UB40 to pieces, it looks like Campbell is keen to destroy some other bands.

Mail has trouble making up mind, decides on "burn the witch"

You'd have to feel sorry for Myleene Klass this morning: the Daily Mail has decided to launch a war on her body shape, but can't even decide what's wrong with it.

At first, it snickers because Marks and Spencer have airbrushed out some "lovehandles" from her Bikini photo shoot - although it tries to make it sound like the paper is disappointed at the treatment:

And although she looked in pretty amazing shape for a new mother, as these pictures show, the 29-year-old television presenter was given the Photoshop treatment to trim her curvy love handles.

Having printed pictures of her with these offensive handles and had a bit of a chuckle at them, the paper then decides she's also too thin:
[S]he appears to have lost even more weight, as she showed off a very slim figure at the Mayfair Personality of the Year Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel earlier this month.

Myleene's ultra-slim appearance prompted onlookers to wonder where her famous curves had disappeared to.
But her shrinking frame is likely to disappoint admirers - including fiancé Graham 'Gray' Quinn - who have celebrated her shapely physique.

There is, presumably, a magical weight where Myleene could satisfy the Mail's demands. Or, possibly, someone who could decide if they're outraged by the airbrushing, or by the presence of "lovehandles".

Gordon in the morning: The late Amy Winehouse

There's nothing much in the speculation-stuffed tale of Amy Winehouse turning up late at the prison where Blake is currently languishing Gordon brings us this morning. He notices - although, to be fair a man on the moon with a naked eye would notice - Amy wearing a giant badge with Blake's name on it. Or possibly the other Blake's name on it. Being late, she couldn't go in to see him.

In the paper and on the front of the Bizarre site, the headline is

Heart Blake Hotel

Which makes sense, apart from the hotel bit - which isn't really needed anyway, is it? But if you wanted to use Elvis headlines, given that Amy was refused entry, wouldn't Jailhouse Block have been better?

Lynsey Haywood contributes the surprising news that Pete Doherty has turned to Scientology. Well, not quite, she admits deeper into the story - he's hanging around with a scientologist, Nadine Ruddy and:
has bought a pile of books on the subject since meeting Scientologist DJ NADINE RUDDY.

And he has been leaving his Wiltshire mansion to stay at her home in Reading, Berks, at least once a week.

Which isn't quite the same thing as starting to work your way towards becoming a level three thetan or whatever it is. Still, let's keep a close eye to see if the next album is called Down In Xenu or something.

Eleswhere in The Sun, the paper calls for something to be done about heavy drinking:
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith promised last month to punish the parents of kids caught boozing.

Excellent. Let’s see a flood of prosecutions without delay. You could haul culprits from their beds every night in every town in Britain.

Or, like the heralded binge-drinking crackdown mysteriously overlooked in the Budget, is it all just talk?

Youngsters getting drunk, it turns out, is the fault of "liberal attitudes". And not, say, the attitude fostered by articles in a certain newspaper column we could mention which glorifies the idea of getting incapable and treats drunkeness as a big giggle, like, for example:
Pop babes are the No1 caners

last Friday, or when Gordon gives an award to the most-frequently drunk:
KATE MOSS and KELLY OSBOURNE have launched a commendable double-pronged attack to land my Caner Of The Year award.

Or when Gordon praises Adele for necking as much free booze as she can:
I think Adele is a cracker. And she’s bound to be up for a right tear-up at the UK’s biggest music awards.

At the bash on Tuesday loads of perfectly groomed fashion people strutted their funky stuff around the chocolate treat-laden table.

But Adele was more interested in finding somewhere to line up her free beverages. Good girl.

With a bit of chocolate stuck to her forehead, she cheerily added: “I’ve been loving all of the parties recently – so much free booze.”

Forget Chasing Pavements Adele, you could start chasing after my Caner Of The Year gong at this rate.

It's fine for the Sun to call for young people to be set a good example. They might want to start by putting their own house in order first.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Madonna: The past is past, and cannot be revisited. Except for a price.

We're sure she was almost half joking when Madonna ruled out playing her decent songs unless there was a big cheque in the offing:

"I'm not sure I can sing Holiday or Like A Virgin ever again.

"I just can't - unless somebody paid me like $30 million or something. (Like if) some Russian guy wants me to come to the wedding he's going to have to a 17-year-old."

Half joking. But she's set up a PayPal account, just in case.

Stones allowed rock

For 44 years, The Rolling Stones have been banned from Blackpool, a result of a riot at a 1964 gig at the Empress Ballroom.

Now, though, Blackpool has decided it can cope with the band, and Peter Callow, council leader, is writing a letter telling them they're free to play:

"We are writing to the group to say the ban has been lifted and they are welcome to play here again."

Presumably the council has become aware of its foolishness by seeing the band always calling at Royal Lytham St Annes on their world tours over the last four decades. Think of the lost revenue...

Duffy not Dusty

Duffy 'Not Stephen TinTin' NottheoneoffCasualty is baffled that people compare her to Dusty Springfield:

"I only got around to owning the Dusty Springfield box-set about a year ago. I just don’t relate to it. I don’t see how there’s a thread."

No, nor do we. Nor do we.

Capital of Culture update

There's much, much more to Liverpool than The Beatles, you know.

There's, um, hedges. Admittedly, they are hedges in the shape of the Beatles.

Yes, it's grudging, but it's still respect

We're a little surprised, but if Leona Lewis manages to hit the US number one today, it'll be the first record by a British solo female artist to do it since... this:

Kim Wilde in 1987. Blimey.

Daily Mail follows Geri to Washington

The Daily Mail offers a lot of coverage - well, pictures - of Geri Halliwell's trip to Capitol Hill to have her photo taken ("raise the issues about women's reproductive rights in the developing world").

You might have thought it would be hard to make a story about a Spice Girl in politics even more lowbrow, but the Mail manages to pull it off, by drawing comparisons with Legally Blonde. Sorry, Legally Blonde 2.

(We've always had a problem with that movie, by the way. Clearly, by the end of Legally Blonde one the Reese Witherspoon character - if character doesn't over-estimate the number of dimensions the scripty stereotype comes with - has grown into the role of lawyer, understands the system and has shed the bulk of the valley girl tics. So how come she backslides at the start of the second film? And, also: why did they make it?)

Still, while Geri is in Washington [something here about what she's doing there, really, if we ever work it out], Victoria is also doing her bit by, erm, wearing skin tightpvc trousers.

Gordon in the morning: Fuller story and pics

We're sure that Gordon will be delighted to know that it's hard to find fault with his big, splashy interview this morning - he's got an exclusive with Amelle Berrabah and Freddie Fuller, doing a big, clearing-his-name session. The money for the interview is going to Rape Crisis. And, thankfully, there's enough in their statements that Gordon has to do little more than transcribe their words.

One thing, though: Amelle explains why they're doing the interview:

People need to know the truth about what really happened and that Freddie is completely innocent.

And why do people need to know that? Perhaps because everyone was told what the allegations were in the first place. By, erm, a front page splash on the Sun which yelled '"Sugababe 'rape' hell: Star's love 'attacked her sister'". It's probably lucky for the paper that they're running a feature about the horror of everyone thinking you're a rapist, rather than having to explain to m'learned friends their role in everyone thinking that in the first place.

One other thing. Freddie observes:
People were quick to judge me because of my background.

The Sun? Finding space to let a traveller suggest they get a rougher ride in reporting because of the way they live?

After all this, though, it's back to business as normal: here's Cheryl Cole holding a chocolate bar.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Potty-mouthed Amstell turning kids into foul-mouthed rudesters

Why are kids today so bloody rude? You might think of putting the blame on the people who are paid money to teach them, but teachers have decided that they don't fancy carrying the can for this one. Instead, they put the blame on, erm, Never Mind The Buzzcocks:

Pupils are increasingly using sexist and offensive language, making comments about classmates' sizes or the perceived sexuality of a teacher, Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, told the union's annual conference in Manchester yesterday.

He said that quiz shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks and They Think It's All Over fuelled the casual use of bad language. "Programme makers and celebrities need to reflect on what's taking place," he said. "Too much cruel behaviour can be seen on television programmes."

Well, perhaps.

Although singling out Buzzcocks rather than, say, Heat magazine or the Daily Mail seems a little strange.

Although you might wonder if - since Buzzcocks sits on the watershed-side of the schedule - the problem is less about what is happening on television programmes aimed at adults, and more at why parents are allowing their kids to watch such programmes. And if older children are watching the shows, then surely by then they should be able to understand the rules whereby 'real life' isn't like 'a game show presented by Simon Amstell' - and if they can't... well, that would be back to the people who should be teaching them the skills to tell the difference, wouldn't it?

This is why they want to keep children from computers

We suppose, at least, the current fascination with the 'Rickroll' (whereby one links something random to Never Gonna Give You Up on YouTube) isn't being driven by a marketing company trying to flog deodorant or training shoes.

What is rickrolling?

As far as we can tell. It's a bit like a slightly less infernal version of that stunt you used to see all the time on Popbitch, back when you used to read Popbitch all the time. A link promising one thing, but delivering something else.

Rick himself is being good natured about this blast of kind of fame:

“I think it’s just one of those odd things where something gets picked up and people run with it,” Astley said. “But that’s what brilliant about the Internet.”

Rickrolling is being co-opted into direct action, too, reports the New York Times:
Former Scientologists protesting against the church, for example, have been playing and singing the song this year outside Scientology offices in London, Washington, Seattle and other cities.

Although singing 'Never gonna give you up' outside a cult office is surely the wrong message, isn't it?

It will all help ticket sales for this summer's Here And Now tour, where he shares billing with Bananarama, ABC, Paul Young, Curiosity Killed The Cat, Johnny Hates Jazz and the Cutting Crew. (Since H&N promises 'only the hits', surely those last two won't be on stage very long?) It'll help with sales, that is, providing that someone links to the actual ticketshop and doesn't just rickroll the curious.

Batting for Radiohead

Good news for people planning to see Radiohead in their only-places-where-you-can-get-easily-on-the-bus tour of UK and Europe: Bat For Lashes are going to be in support.

To 'celebrate', here's Moon and Moon from The Culture Show in 2007:

Tokio Hotel closes down for refurbishment

Bill Kaulitz, the pretty girl-boy who is lead singer with the nowhere near as compelling Tokio Hotel has got nodes on his vocal cords; he needs to keep quiet during the surgery and after so their European tour is being axed.

Actually, since the band are better when they keep quiet, they could do all the dates and just stand there to be looked at. Everyone would be happy.

Managerobit: Chase Tatum

Chase Tatum, road manager of Outkast, has been found dead in hisBuckhead, Georgia apartment.

Prior to turning his hand to hip-hop management, Tatum had been a wrestler with the now-defunct World Campionship Wrestling Organisation; it's possible that his career of theatrical sport led to his persistent back problems; the back problems led to surgery; the surgery led to painkillers and, sadly, an apparently accidental overdose of painkillers led to his death.

His entry into wrestling had been through a client of his body-building business; his career lasted just over two years with a crocked back and no health insurance to pay for it to be fixed. His work with Outkast (and especially as Big Boi's personal assistant) had helped him turn things around; a part in the movie Who's Your Caddy had brought him to notice of producers planning a movie to be shot in New York.

His father claimed that Tatum had planned to enter rehab to cope with his painkiller addiction. He was 34.

Sony BMG forget past, condemn themselves to repeat it

Having caught a cold on their Connect Service, Sony BMG have decided to have another crack at selling their own music online. They've announced half-formed plans for a subscription-based service.

They are even considering going ahead if they don't get the other major labels onboard, apparently:

[SonyBMG CEO] Schmidt-Holtz: “The offer is more attractive, the bigger the music selection. I am not saying that it wouldn’t be interesting if we do it alone. But it would certainly not as exciting."

Oh, yes, a Sony-only service would certainly be interesting, as in "isn't it interesting that three-quarters of all the music you could want isn't available on this subscription, let's try somewhere else."

Fields Of Rock cancelled as big names dry up

The over-demand for headline names has led to the axing of this year's Fields Of Rock festival in the Netherlands. Organisers had begun selling tickets in the hope that someone might want to take the top slots, but have now decided to just refund everyone's cash and spend the weekend digging the vegetable patch instead:

"Because of the lack of headliners leading to disappointing ticket sales, we are very sorry to inform you that Fields of Rock 2008 is cancelled. This very difficult decision was made because it wouldn't have been wise to continue with this edition of the Fields of Rock festival both financially and creatively. We offer our sincere apologies to Fields of Rock visitors who had already bought their tickets for this edition. Tickets for Fields of Rock 2008 can be returned until 1 July.

"About 35 bands were [secheduled] to perform at Fields of Rock 2008. This year, the organisation also made an extra investment to enhance the festival's atmosphere and fringe programme. This meant Fields of Rock was heading for a new direction. Unfortunately, the major headliners, the artists who attract large numbers of visitors, weren't available for the weekend of 20, 21, and 22 of June. Although the organisation had been working on a great programme since the fall of 2007, it appears Fields of Rock doesn't fit the touring schedules of the big bands. Therefore, the decision to cancel the festival was made out of necessity rather than by choice."

This isn't the first festival to be scuppered by the soaring number of slots chasing a diminishing number of acts - surely there needs to be a government intervention to prop up the festival market? Aren't they keeping REO Speedwagon and Lulu in reserve for just such a crisis?

The undrinkable in pursuit of the unthinkable

Having lost its patience with not being mentioned often enough in the media ("with Axl Rose's slow work rate"), the company which makes largely-undrinkable soda Dr Peppers has offered to give everyone in America a free can of their product if Guns N Roses finally release Chinese Democracy this year.

No, really:

In an unprecedented show of solidarity with Axl, everyone in America, except estranged GNR guitarists Slash and Buckethead, will receive a free can of Dr Pepper if the album ships some time -- anytime! -- in 2008. Dr Pepper supports Axl, and fully understands that sometimes you have to make it through the jungle before you get it right.

"It took a little patience to perfect Dr Pepper's special mix of 23 ingredients, which our fans have come to know and love," said Jaxie Alt, director of marketing for Dr Pepper. "So we completely understand and empathize with Axl's quest for perfection -- for something more than the average album. We know once it's released, people will refer to it as "Dr Pepper for the ears" because it will be such a refreshing blend of rich, bold sounds -- an instant classic."

We're not sure they can legitimately force people to drink their free can of soda, or how the distribution would work - perhaps it'd be like when they used to turn the EU beef mountain into unpleasant cans of minced cow parts in gravy and have local centres hand them out to pensioners. We're picturing them emptying a layer or two of ice into the Grand Canyon, then tipping in however-many-million cans before inviting people to help themselves.

We imagine the shareholders of whoever's holding that part of the falling-apart Cadburys Schweppes operation will be delighted if Axl does overcome the odds and get the record out by Christmas. It's a nice gag - let's hope it doesn't become a bankruptingly expensive one.

Mouldy Peaches

What's missing from the story of Peaches Geldof's performance with Rodnik being so bad the entire audience walked out is if, when the audience fled, he took his dog with him.

Now Playlist Ridden: The Current is staunched

It's not just 6Music - "and here's Peter Bjorn and John again" - which is becoming same-old, same-old. In St Paul, the public radio KCMP The Current has been getting a little less eclectic in the face of falling ratings.

They hired a consultant, who did what consultants do, and suggested using a playlist. For a left-field music station.

Having paid a consultant, the station decided to follow his advice. Curiously, they won't mention the name of the consultancy they hired, but the suspicion is that they chose one who claims to know about radio rather than one who knows about reaching an under-served music-loving audience.

The strawmen that break the camel's heart

Blogging ping-pong: Billy Bragg calls for a slice of the Bebo cake; Michael Arrington responds on TechCrunch; and then econsultancy responds to the response.

eConsultancy's views - and sympathy - sits with the major labels. It rails against Arrington for suggesting that recorded music's value is slipping towards zero, and marshalls some political and legal arguments in its defence:

When somebody downloads a song (or software product) without paying for it, it is a violation of the rights holder's intellectual property rights assuming that the rights holder has not authorized it to be downloaded without payment.

Whether you agree with the concept of intellectual property or not, we live in a world where the legal systems of most developed nations have embraced the concept intellectual property rights, and short of an abolition of these, there can be no argument that piracy of recorded music is not an egregious violation of these rights.

Well, actually, you can certainly argue about 'egregious'- 'de facto', maybe. But this is missing the point in a way that even a Brighton and Hove Albion striker would smirk at.

Yes, it breaks the law. But that doesn't mean it isn't happening. Indeed, when so many otherwise law-abiding people break a law so often, the conclusion should not be that the law is a good one.

But econsultancy are about to use the 'stealing a CD' metaphor:
Few people would walk into a music store and steal a CD but the disinhibiting nature of the internet has helped foment a widespread belief that anonymous digital theft, on the other hand, is [seen as being] acceptable.

To hear this argument being trotted out in 2008 makes it feel like you're in an episode of Torchwood and webpages from the late 90s are being served to you through some sort of time rift. In case you've fallen through a timewarp: Not paying for a digital download is only like stealing a CD if you steal from a magical CD shop where each item replenishes itself on the shelf. And in such a shop, the value of the CD for sale might be seen to be almost nothing, since its perpetual supply would suggest a pricepoint at approaching zero. You might give the storekeeper something to compensate for his work at providing a physical environment, and for his time; but the CD itself? It costs him nothing to create a new one, so it's hard to see why he could legitimately charge more than a token for it.

This doesn't, of course, make it right. Artists should get paid. It's just that we're in a new world where the previous value of an artefact - its scarcity - has been removed. The rules are different; the intellectual property rules, created when it was possible to limit supplies of recordings (indeed, impossible not to) need to change, too.

Arrington's belief - that recorded realises its value is promotional, not commercial, and to make money, that which is scarce should be exploited for its rarity - makes perfect economic sense. EConsultancy even summarises the point, with a little bit of raging:
* Artists and record labels to offer an in-demand product (recorded music) for free when the greatest fixed costs in the business are related to the production of this product.

* Artists and record labels to subsidize the give-away with "live music, merchandise and limited edition physical copies of music" - all things that naturally appeal to a much smaller subset of the market.

But the costs of a CD don't lay in the recording: the largest chunk of a record company's costs are in shipping, distribution and overhead. The average CD price contains just seventy-odd cents' worth of making the actual music.

It's not that expensive to make a record. It's pricey to promote, pricey to cart about - but, unless you over-indulge your acts, by flying The Happy Mondays to Isle Of Drugs, or allow them to hire sixteen piece orchestras, actually getting them to go in and make a record doesn't, in the scheme of things, cost that much. Half as much as the marketing.

eConsultancy then goes on to demolish what it claims are the "two myths" of the future of the music business:
The internet has eliminated the need for middlemen (i.e. record labels)

But whoever has said this? The point is that the new middlemen for the new world aren't record labels, not that there won't be any. Thom Yorke isn't going round people's houses with the new album on a pendrive - there are still people in the middle providing services. It's just they're not being brought in by an extra layer of management any more.

You'll still need the labels, we're warned:

Yet few critics place any importance on the fact that both Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails were the beneficiaries of major record label promotion and that their ability to eventually go direct to their fans stems from the popularity that was cultivated with the investment of the record labels.

That investment cannot be devalued. After all, EMI, for instance, estimates that only 5% of its acts are profitable. In other words, record labels act like venture capitalists in many ways, and I don't see Arrington calling for the demise of his VC friends.

95% of what EMI does fails to make money, in other words. And it fails to make money because the company is badly organised, and can't cope with smaller artists selling smaller records to dissipated niche markets; because it overpays and overproduces. EMI losing on 19 out of every twenty bands it works with isn't a reason we need record labels - it's the reason why we don't. How is showing that a company has no idea how to make money from most of its product meant to convince anyone they're the right people to cope with the future?

Yes, there will still be a need for someone to invest - but cut out the enormous cost of physical manufacture and distribution, and the sums get smaller. Cut the need to sell hundreds of thousands to break even, and the attractiveness to smaller investors grows. Move on from four companies signing up everything in site, and then not knowing how to sell them nineteen times out of twenty, and smaller labels and smaller bands might have a better future.

Onto the other myth:
Piracy primarily reflects a consumer backlash against "evil" record labels.

This is the sort of strawman that would make Worzel Gummidge ashamed. It's like me saying that there's a myth that bloggers want to kill the Queen, and then delivering two paragraphs comprehensively dismissing the idea. Nobody suggests that this is what's going on, and so to then disprove the myth is to value the pyrrhic above the empiric. A consumer backlash against labels which have been slow to act, which have been proven to conspire to overcharge the public, which have been unable to respond to consumer demands, maybe; but who has ever suggested that everyone is busily scouring the torrents for a Blur album in order to punish EMI?

eConsultancy ends by predicting, if things don't change, everyone will lose:
But the most dangerous unintended consequence of digital music theft is that it could eventually hamper the creation of music itself.

If making the music we all love is not a financially-viable enterprise for artists because we continue to steal it and devalue the costs (in both time and money) of producing it, more and more of them may have no choice but to stop creating that music.

They even quote Adam Smith to back up their point:
In his seminal book, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith noted:

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages."

We should remember this and recognize that it applies to more than just the people who produce the food we eat. It also applies to the people who produce the music that satiates our souls.

But this assumes that music can only exist when the people who make it are buying yachts and owning half a Hampstead Street. An awful lot of people already make no money at all from their music - playing down the Dock Road on a Saturday night for drinks; putting out self-financed vinyl 7 inches for the love of it; humming to themselves. A reorganised world which takes advantage of the new opportunities offered by digital distribution and a global market might mean more people can make a little from music; it will almost certainly mean those who make a massive amount will make less. But even if nobody pays anything ever again, we won't suddenly live in a silent realm: some people make music because they love to make music.

Eavis: Blame the weatherman

The drop in registrants for Glastonbury Festival could be down to many reasons: the less-than-stellar line-up this year; the changing atmosphere at the festival; even the 'papers, please, citizen' need to register in the first place. All these things, of course, are down to decisions taken by the organisers.

So it's perhaps no surprise that Emily Eavis is looking for a reason beyond their control:

Eavis said that she thought that figures were down because the last two Glastonbury festivals, in 2005 and 2007, were characterised by mud and rain, putting people off, and that suggestions that the announcement that Jay-Z would be playing a headline slot was to blame were unfounded.

"I'm sure it's because of the weather," she told NME.COM. "People only remember the last festival, so if it was really muddy… I don't blame them, to be honest. Everybody needs a rest."

Nearly every bloody Glastobury Festival is characterised by mud - why would 2007's mud suddenly put people off when, say, the horrors of 1998 didn't?

I'm alive. I'm dead. Oh, actually, scrub that, I'm still alive

If, in 1982, some fool had suggested that this motley gang of doom-mongers [The Cure] would be thriving in the 21st century, he would have been laughed out of court.

Never mind that, imagine trying to tell some kid in 1982 that in 2008, the Daily Telegraph would be running a warm, lengthy profile of The Cure.

That Franz Ferdinand story, then...

Gigwise - who do say they heard it on Newsbeat - have more detail about the Franz's abandonment of their sessions with Brian 'Girls Aloud producer' Higgins:

"We learned a little bit from his methods. We wrote with him for a while and initially we thought we'd work more with him on the album but it didn't really work out.

"We just realised that we're not really a pop group. We're just a band that happens to cross over into the whole pop sphere."

The new album remains on course for October - or earlier, if it looks like leeking onto peer-to-peer.

Gordon in the morning: Pete in the morning

There's no question what the big story is this morning in Bizarre - it's the apparent claims of Kate Moss that she's going to marry Jamie Hince. Okay, she was drunk when she said it, and only said to people taking her picture on cameraphones, and couldn't explain any further than "soon", but it's a splashy big story. It gets an exclusive tag. In the print edition of the Sun, it's a big, prominent splash.

It's clearly the biggest story of the morning.

Oddly, though, it's shoved aside on the Bizarre webpage to make way for a lame Wayne Rooney wedding story which is 'rich man spends money on wedding', in effect.

Why would a long burble guessing how much Colleen is going to spend on flowers take priority over an actual, scoopy, surprising Moss story?

The byline on the Kate story, we'd guess:

Deputy Bizarre Editor

There is also a story about Franz Ferdinand, too, although Gordon forgets to mention his source for this one, too. "I heard it on Newsbeat", actually.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Imeem offers music, platform, api

A lot of web companies share APIs with developers - it's what made Google and Facebook so full of third-party-powered stuff. But the opening up of Imeem's API and platform to anyone who's got an idea is a new leap forward - because Imeem is also offering its media library to be plugged into the new applications. Yes, that's the library which has deals with all four major labels and a whole slew of indies. There could be some very, very attractive hand-tooled applications just round the corner.

"Here's Put Your Hands Up For Detroit. Again."

We should have linked to this back when it appeared, but... well, we didn't, clearly. But we should bring Sweeping The Nation's dissection of the Last.FM figures recording BBC Radio's output for the last couple of years to your attention.

It confirms your suspicion that Young Folks got played a ridiculous number of times on 6Music, for a start.

Fall Out Boy pulls South Pole trip

Fall Out Boy had been going to play a gig in Antarctica because... well, we're sure there was a good reason. Perhaps it was to push some deodorant or something. Or maybe it was because floating a giant statue of yourself down the Thames has already been done.

It's not going to happen now, though: the weather's too bad. In Antarctica? Who'd have thought?

Billy Corgan feels his integrity has been slighted

Virgin records used Smashing Pumpkins as part of the Amazon-Pepsi giveaway promotion, which hasn't pleased Billy Corgan. He feels it slights his integrity:

"Its a frustrating situation honestly to be treated so poorly by a label where we had so much success," the band's singer, Billy Corgan, said in a written statement.

"Recently they have ignored our pleas to give our fans special editions of our old albums, telling us they weren't interested so there is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy involved with them turning around and using us like this," Corgan said

The lawsuit asserts that Smashing Pumpkins "worked hard for over two decades" to build goodwill with fans damaged by Virgin's use of its music and image in the campaign.

Virgin could, conceivably countersue that the current Corgan-only version of the Pumpkins is doing more to ruin the band's integrity than anything they could manage.

How goes the Extreme remakeover?

A couple of years back, we hid our face from the news that Extreme were getting back together.

We've heard very little since, but apparently they're still huffing about, with a new record being lined up. Apparently it's going to be different, says Nuno Bettencourt:

Even though we wanted to do something for years, we had to have something new to offer," he told "In the last six months we started writing some great songs. If they weren't, we wouldn't be doing this."

Well, great songs would mark a major departure from the ones they wrote during their first wind.

Katona lie-test story suddenly considered interesting

Hold The Front Page! Or at least, change it about a bit. The News of the World has suddenly lifted a makeweight story about Kerry Katona and her husband, Kerry Katona's husband, to the top of the News of the World website. Not because Katona's latest attempt to attract out attention is suddenly interesting; more to do with a writ from Paul Jewell, Derby County's manager, who had a problem with their actual lead.

Together at last, sort of: Murdoch & NME

You'd have thought that - what with all the synergies and stuff that supposedly fly from mergers - the natural, streaming home of the NME US Awards would have been on Bebo, also part of the Time Warner empire. Instead, they've given 'em to rivals MySpace.

Now, what was it NME editor Conor McNicholas said about MySpace exactly a month ago?

I've almost completely given up on MySpace and Facebook already. They're really great fun for three weeks, but I just don't have the time any more. If you're 15 years old, though, and fantastically self-obsessed, they're a brilliant invention.

Bringing the NME awards to an audience of self-obsessed fifteen year olds. That's the way to build a brand.

Paying and paying again: Can subscription work?

Interesting stuff over on eMarketer, where they do some of the sums associated with a musical subscription service and suggest that - surprise - the labels might be expecting too much cash:

Forrester Research estimated that in the third quarter of 2007, 42% of all MP3 players owned by US adult Internet users were Apple iPods.

Applying Forrester's estimate as a market-share calculation, Apple could reasonably argue that any hardware-based iPod royalty should yield 42% of global industry sales, $1.2 billion of the industry's $2.9 billion total for 2007. That would equal roughly 14.5% of Apple’s iPod revenues for its fiscal 2007, or about $23 per iPod unit (assuming average per-unit revenue of $161).

That figure corresponds to the $20 Apple is said to be offering labels, according to The Financial Times. However, if Nokia is paying up to $80 per unit, as the article suggests, that would indicate a huge gap between Apple's price point and the labels' presumed expectations.

Actually, we'd say even the twenty bucks is over-priced: the 42% of US iPod owners shouldn't be replacing 42% of global sales - a massive chunk of that $2.9 billion is accounted for by sales outside the US and physical sales - and why should a person buying an iPod compensate a music industry for a share of sales that has nothing to do with digital downloads? It makes ten dollars sound like a generous amount, surely?

Segre spurned Moss. He says.

You're probably wondering, if Serge Pizzorno is, like, the embodiment of rock and roll, how come he's not a notch on Kate Moss' bedstead. Or wherever she keeps a track of the rock stars she has known?

Apparently, you know, he had the chance but was, like, too wasted to, uh, make the connection:

"Back at Glastonbury in 2005. We were all sat around a campfire and she invited me out for a drink there and then. "To be honest though, I was completely pissed, so nothing happened.

Serge also could have had that Britney, but she, uh, wouldn't be able to handle the pace, and that Amy Winehouse? Yeah, probably a lesbian anyway.

How can you tell if you have too much time on your hands?

There are many ways, but here's the sort of clue that it might be time to think about seeking out a hobby:

Silver-tongued radio DJ Mike Read has turned Disc-Choccie - creating a £5,500 picture of Brighton's West Pier out of sweets.

The former BBC Radio 1 star is showcasing his art in Brighton, working with liquorice, Bounty bars, smarties and rock.

Although if he'd gone to St Martins, we'd probably be reaching for our chequebooks.
He has also combined his love of music with his passion for art to create pictures of famous album covers such as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road by The Beatles.

We'd like to see him try and recreate The World Of Twist's Sweets sleeve only using CD jewel boxes.

Is everybody here on Droogs?

The Daily Mail suggests that Kelly Osbourne is styling herself after a bit of the old ultraviolence:

Kelly Osbourne is famous for her quirky fashion - and her latest outfit is no exception.

The 23-year-old stepped out in LA in black bowler hat seemingly inspired by A Clockwork Orange's anti-hero Alex DeLarge, a bright aqua shirt and matching 80s shades.

Hang about... a brightly coloured shirt and a bowler? That's not A Clockwork Orange... that's the Bradford and Bingley ads, isn't it?

Meanwhile, Kelly has been chatting with Lily and you know what, what Lily says is soooo true:
: “Lily Allen said something that was so right. She said, 'Kelly, I don't know why you consistently go out with young boys. You won't find what you're looking for. Mentally, physically, they don't understand our lifestyle, they just read about it in magazines.'

"I was like, yes! Recently, I've started to find older men attractive."

'Physically, they don't understand your lifestyle'? Eh? And I might be a little slow here, but in what way does 'being young' (Kelly is all of 23, remember) mean that you by definition won't have a 'lifestyle' like Allen and Osbourne? (lifestyle here meaning 'a career built on parent's fame' we suspect.) And why would being a little older make you more likely to "mentally understand" the lifestyle anyway?

Not that moving onto older men is helping Kelly:
"But it's hard for me. When I meet someone I genuinely like, they're usually either gay or they have a wife or girlfriend. And I'm not going to go there."

Darndest thing... they always say they're gay or married. Or sometimes they just say they only speak Polish and walk away backwards. One man claimed he was actually a standard lamp. But normally, it turns out they're gay or married.

Gordon in the morning: Emma Bunton's cousin

Another day when the story cupboard is empty for Gordon then, as he splashes with Dancing On Ice star and Emma Bunton's cousin. It's going to be quite crushing for Gareth Gates that he's now been reduced to "Dancing On Ice star" - even Pop Idol doesn't get a mention till the bottom of the story, never mind his singing.

Apparently, he might have kissed Hayley Louise Hughes, who - you'll be ahead of us here - is vaguely related to a Spice Girl; she then posted photos on Facebook (or, inevitably, "t'internet") which Gordon thinks is going to make things difficult for Gareth and his fiancee Suzanne Mole. Although, erm, as Smart himself admits, this all happened before they were engaged. (Which, in itself, means this all happened before Christmas. Three month old stories, Gordon - is this Time Team?

Gordon seems to have something else he wants to say:

Now the pop-flop Dancing On Ice star may find himself lost for words for a change.
When Suzanne sees the pictures, Gareth will have to do some fast talking...

Not, of course, that Gordon would be making nudge-nudge gags about a man with a stutter.

But if Gordon is running with a distant relative of Emma Bunton hugging someone months ago as his big story, what does that mean for the down-page stories? Surely they're not going to be quite so thin, are they?

How about Billy Zane wears some pink trousers?

The Motorcade Sped Backwards

Some good news this morning: Steinski's getting a long-overdue career retrospective, What Does It All Mean? It's out at the end of May, and is pretty comprehensive - although it does miss off We'll Be Right Back, the satire on television advertising that, erm, ended up being licensed to advertise Ovaltine. Apparently it doesn't appear because of the theological vacuum that created, but because it was the only release he did for Island records.

The press release came with an mp3 stapled to it: The Pay Off Mix.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Diana concert: What happened to the money?

You'll remember the Diana concert last year - no, no, you're thinking of the Live Earth one. This was the other one. The fundraiser. It pulled in something over a million quid.

So, how's the distribution of the cash been going?

Not well, according to the Mail:

Last week, the organisation's first audited accounts to the Charity Commission were revealed.

They show that despite raising £1.15million from sales of the documentary, last year's star-studded Concert for Diana in Wembley Stadium, charity polo matches and other donations, just £84,000 was handed over to projects such as children's homes, clinics and counselling centres in the first 18 months of the charity's operations.

Over the same period, £472,000 went on staff salaries, setting up an office in Lesotho, buying vehicles, creating a website and other activities.

The official explanation from Clarence House is that it doesn't want to be seen to be "splashing cash about". Except on salaries, of course.

XM-Sirius: Together at last

Good news for anyone except the cynical who believe that plurality in media is a good idea: The Justice Department has said it doesn't have a problem with XM and Sirius merging.

It's argument - and it has a good point - is that since going with one or the other involves a hefty financial purchase, the pair aren't actually competing for customers in the way that, say, Quiznos and Subway might persuade customers to cross over the road for a different sandwich.

On the other hand, when two outfits have been competing to sign up radio stations, and suddenly there's just one monopoly provider, you might argue that's a bit of a worry. Not to the Justice Department, apparently.

Beatlesobit: Neil Aspinall

One of several people lauded with the honorific 'Fifth Beatle', Neil Aspinall has died.

Although an occasional instrumentalist on Beatles tracks, his real contribution to the band has been as chief executive of Apple Corps, leading the company from 1970 through to 2007 and doing as much to keep the Beatles legend stoked and shining - and earning - as any of the band.

Although a schoolfriend of McCartney and Harrison, Aspinall came into the band's ambit when another one of the Fifth Beatles, Pete Best, asked him to do some driving. Aspinall - as an accountant - worked out quickly that road-managing the band would make more than the day job, and quickly became a fixture in the band's machine. He nearly quit in solidarity when Pete Best was canned; Best persuaded him to say.

His appointment at the head of the Apple operation almost faltered when George Martin suggested his background would leave him struggling to deal with the upper-classes in charge of EMI; that wasn't so much of a problem but his lack of business skills did see him condemned in the Sunday Times in 1995 as 'merrily leading [The Beatles] to the brink of chaos and bankruptcy". However, Aspinall's plan - to try and maintain the band as a quality brand rather than a piggybank - appeared to pay off when the Anthology series appeared; a band who had largely kept aloof from the compilation market managed to make a bunch of offcuts (and a dreadful 'new' track in Free As A Bird) seem like an event. It sold in bucketloads.

Although once a wide-ranging business empirette, for most of its life Apple has relied on Beatles records and legal battles with Apple Computer and EMI.

Neil Aspinall was 66; it's believed his death was related to lung cancer.

... and I wasn't there, either

The New York Times has got a courtroom artist's impression of the moment Heather Mills emptied water over Fiona Shackleton's head. It was done by an artist who wasn't present, and who perhaps hasn't seen people interacting much.

[UPDATE: Schoolboy error. Their not there. Head duly hung in shame]

Watching the tide of history rolling out

James P emails with news of Suzanne Shaw's engagement. And one keyt detail:

It's the headline that struck me - The 'boyfriend' in question is JK, from former Radio 1 duo JK and Joel, now a weekend presenter on Virgin. Up until a few weeks ago, he would've merited getting his name in the headline, rather than just 'Boyfriend'. It's like a demonstration of how quickly celebrity status can change in a few short months. In the world of celebrity couples, I don't think I've seen a shift in the role of 'The Famous One' like this since the days of Neil and Christine Hamilton...

It's also worth noting that JK is now so unfamous, they're also having to refer to him as Jason "JK" King - not, to be honest, that that's going to make people think 'that bloke who used to do the Top 40' rather than 'wasn't he a fictional character?'

Darkness at 3AM: As fast as the Royal Mail

Astonishing news from the 3AM column this morning:

Eels frontman Mark Oliver Everett seems desperate to attract a better class of fan to his gigs.

The cheeky US indie star even wrote to the Queen inviting her to attend his recent show at the Royal Festival Hall.

The 'recent' show was a month ago; the invite story was originally reported on back on February 18th.

Catatonia Bank Holiday: Mulder And Scully

In retrospect, Mulder and Scully might seem a little too knowing, the addition of a spot of pop-TV sci-fi interest providing just enough extra heft to propel them from front of Melody Maker to the music pages of the tabloids. Indeed, it's possible that without this track, Cerys might never have ended up in the jungle.

Here it is, on Top Of The Pops, with a Jayne Middlemiss bonus:

[Part of the Catatonia Bank Holiday]

Gordon in the morning: Sometimes the paper is hard to fill

Set in the scale of slip-ups made by celebrities, Paris Hilton thinking that West Africa is a country might be worth a quick chortle - although how many Sun readers would have had to check an Atlas to make sure that's what her "gaffe" was. On a quiet bank holiday, though, Gordon grabs it like a pensioner finding an empty table in a Fortes cafe, and makes it a lead story.

Obviously, it takes padding. A lot of padding. Indeed, so stuffed is the story, Gordon somehow makes this the conclusion of a story about Paris thinking West Africa is a country:

It bothers me to see a mug like Danielle Lloyd raking in huge sums even after showing herself up on Celeb Big Brother as a racist numbskull.

Still, on a day when his newspaper's front page is barking "Gipsy hell for minister Tessa", nice to see Gordon taking a stand against racism.

To pad out a quiet day on Bizarre still further, an article by Antonella Lazzeri is drafted in, fretting over the pressures on young girls who hold up Jordan as a role model:
[C]onsultant psychologist Eileen Bradbury warned that girls could face a lifetime of surgery.

Mindful of this hard-ish-hitting piece about the cost of obsessions with tits finding a bank holiday berth in Bizarre, Gordon approaches his usual matter with, well, exactly the same finesse:
TV beauty HOLLY WILLOUGHBY has earned quite a reputation for her bumpers recently.

And now she’s added two more — in the shape of this soft-top VW Beetle.

To see more of Holly's 'airbags' click the slideshow below

Airbags. He means breasts.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Costello dumps CDs

Elvis Costello won't be bothering with CDs any more, he's decided: new album Momofuku is getting released on digital (in digital) and on vinyl only. The vinyl version will come with a code to allow a free digital download; we suspect if you buy it online you won't get sent a small black disc and a scratching device.

Now we are 11

Great excitement from We Are Scientists as they hit the mighty number 11 slot and celebrate by, erm, planning to shake down 7/11 for sponsorship.

Catatonia Bank Holiday: Bleed

Later With Jools, 1996, and Catatonia settle into the studio to shake Bleed from between the long periods of Boogie-woogie piano.

[Part of the Catatonia Bank Holiday]

Funkobit: Jason Rae

Jason Rae, member of the Haggis Horns and husband of Corinne Bailey Rae, has been found dead in his Leeds home.

Rae played saxophone with the Haggis Horns, who gigged regularly in Yorkshire and worked with artists as diverse as Amy Winehouse and Nightmares On Wax. Jason had met Corinne while she was working as cloakroom attendant during her time studying in Leeds; they married in 2001.

West Yorkshire Police have arrested a man in connection with the death; it's believed Rae died of an overdose. A 32 year-old man is being investigated on suspicion of supplying controlled drugs.

Pete Doherty cancels gig. World continues turning.

Whoever would have thought? Pete Doherty won't be showing up for a slot at tonight's gig in the Forum.

There's a good reason, though:

Doherty's management had informed [headliners The Sonics] that the Babyshambles man was in his Wiltshire home and was unable to make the gig.

I'd really like to play the gig, but I'm at home. Yes, that's understandable.

Bragg wants Bebo cut

From a delightful "Dorset, England" byline, Billy Bragg delivers a piece for the New York Times taking a surprisingly Capitalist view of the AOL takeover - namely "lets have a bit of that stock action":

Michael Birch realized the value of his membership. I’m sure he’ll be rewarding those technicians and accountants who helped him achieve this success. Perhaps he should also consider the contribution of his artists.

The musicians who posted their work on are no different from investors in a start-up enterprise. Their investment is the content provided for free while the site has no liquid assets. Now that the business has reaped huge benefits, surely they deserve a dividend.

What’s at stake here is more than just the morality of the market. The huge social networking sites that seek to use music as free content are as much to blame for the malaise currently affecting the industry as the music lover who downloads songs for free. Both the corporations and the kids, it seems, want the use of our music without having to pay for it.

We can see where Bragg is coming from - if music helped fuel Bebo's growth, then shouldn't the makers of that music be rewarded? But how would you even attempt to apportion any cash on that basis?

To say nothing of Bragg missing the point by a country mile: what is being sold when Bebo is flogged to AOL is not the music embedded in the site, but the people who are Beboids or Beboites or whatever they'd be called. The value in a social network lies not in the stuff people do on the network, but in the people who are attached to the network. If anyone should be getting a slice of the AOL gold, it's the members, not musicians, surely?

What, no Thurman?

Out magazine have essayed a mixtape selection of fluid sexual identity songs, which isn't a bad selection. Although it finds room for Sweet Transvestite that could have been better used by Thurman, surely?

Thom Yorke dons the green eye-shield

Today's Observer magazine has been guest-edited by Thom Yorke; it's a climate change special and in his introduction he suggests that his larger-than-average global footprint is a help, rather than a hindrance, in spreading the message:

At first I told Friends of the Earth that I was absolutely the wrong person to be associated with their campaign. I've based my life on touring and the rock industry is a high energy-consuming industry. But they persuaded me that that was exactly why it was a good idea for me to be involved, that they didn't want to present a holier-than-thou message.

That's true - and makes a certain degree of sense - although how far would you take that? There's a sense that this is the environmental equivalent of those times when Keith Richards tells pop stars to not take drugs, isn't it?

But, for a whiskey priest, Yorke is pretty passionate and takes well to his brief - interviewing Ken Livingstone about plans to bring bike rental to central London, for example. Sadly, he doesn't get his hands dirty with testing alternatives to bin liners.

Nelson Mandela: What has he done to deserve this?

Showbiz Zoe with the Zoe Showbiz in today's Sunday Mirror has words to strike terror into Nelson Mandela's heart:

Telly babe Fearne Cotton is preparing for her biggest interview yet - Nelson Mandela.

ITV bosses lined her up to chat to the South African icon at his 90th birthday after being impressed by the way she handled the Princes at The Concert for Diana.

Okay, so going "wow... wasn't James Blunt amazing" is hardly going to call for a Dimbleby, but who would choose Fearne Cotton above all other sentient beings as the perfect person to talk to the hero of the ANC?

Joss Stone Broke

Don't get carried away with the idea that Joss Stone is rich, or anything. She isn't. Or so she'd have us believe:

"I see all these fancy sums attached to me and although I have more money than most people my age, it's nothing like that. My record company gives me a lot to make a new album but I have to spend it on musicians and studios.

"The only time I make good money is when I'm on tour - but even then I'm having to pay my band and the road crew."

Presumably, though, the chocolate advert wasn't done out the goodness of your heart?

Amy Winehouse "shock"

Really, Rav, are you really shocked that Amy Winehouse is still a bit of a mess?

The one surprising thing about the latest sad chapter in her life is the ease with which Mitch Winehouse swaps from worrying about his daughter to talking up the new record:

"Amy turned up late and she had a problem getting through security.

"I saw the cuts on her arms and commented on it. But we are once again in that same situation. She's an adult and what can we do about it?"

"It was the normal dark stuff but absolutely fantastic. The new album should be out later this year.

"I don't know what she does with her songwriting. I've asked her about it before and she thinks I'm a bit silly because I don't understand how she can write a brilliant song."

Well, as long as there's an album for someone to sell at the end of it, eh?

Catatonia Bank Holiday: I Keep A Close Watch

In 2000, Catatonia hooked up with John Cale for the film Camgymeriad Gwych. From that, this is I Keep A Close Watch:

[Part of the Catatonia Bank Holiday]

This week just gone

This week on No Rock: The ten most-read individual stories:

1. Heather Mills might have done something this week
2. R Kelly sex video to form part of evidence
3. RIP Ola Brunkert
4. People still searching Google in the hope of seeing Lily Allen's breasts
5. Nude McFly entices someone
6. Peaches Geldof to edit 'celebrity' stunt magazine
7. Robbie Williams' secret first love - revealed?
8. SXSW bands for 2008
9. Listen to REM live at SXSW
10. Mail blames Pete Tong for out of control party

We suggested buying these things:

Neon Neon - Stainless Style Gull-winged loving pastiche from Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip

Operator Please - Yes Yes Vindictive Not Just a song about Ping Pong anymore

Ivor Cutler - A Flat Man Ivor's last album, re-released by his family

Edgar Jones & Friends - The Masked Marauder

Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward

Get Cape Wear Cape Fly - Searching For The Hows And Whys

Youthmovies - Good Nature

Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing

Girl Talk - Night Ripper Horribly misjudged name for mash-up fun

Kimya Dawson - Remember That I Love You

Ashes To Ashes - Soundtrack
Get yourself in the mood...

Visage - The Anvil
... before full immersion