Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ticketmaster can't hear you if you ask for a refund

Over on Consumerist: an until-now happy customer of Ticketmaster who, when trying to find out details about a canceled event, finds that TM company TicketsNow disconnect the call everytime he mentions the word "refund".

Britney Spears lawyers manage to insult Stalin's victims, judge's intelligence

I suppose the one piece of judgement shown by Britney Spears' lawyers is that they stopped short of reaching for the Nazis and merely suggested that Spears had been treated like a 'gulag victim' by the US courts:

In newly released court papers, Jon Eardley likened her plight to that of forced labourers in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's literary masterpiece.

Mr Eardley was voicing his objections to the court-ordered conservatorship that currently governs the pop singer's life.

"It is worth noting that there has not even been a 'show trial' for Miss Spears," Mr Eardley said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Perhaps, Mr Eardley, but then again, Spears wasn't thrown into the back of a van marked "Meat", driven thousands of miles from her home and family, thrown into a freezing prison cell and made to join work groups despite being fed only the meanest of rations. The courts had stepped in because it appeared that Spears could not be trusted to exercise the most basic degree of judgement - which is a charge that could be leveled at a lawyer who can't tell the difference between one of the most shameful periods of human rights abuses of the last century with having your Dad look after your money while you're not well.

A bit of a Relief

So, not only did last night's Comic Relief raise the sort of sums that only Fred Goodwin could dream of, but actually managed to be consistently entertaining throughout. Normally, by pub-chucking-out-time, they're scrabbling about to give you "another chance to see" stuff that had already played out earlier; this year, they had so much stuff they hadn't even got round to The Apprentice firing by midnight. Even the French and Saunders bit was funny, and that's something you've not been able to say for the best part of a decade and a half.

There was the puzzle of Patrick Kielty - did they call him up and offer him the chance to do a single link while David Tennant and Davina McCall were busy doing Mastermind, or did he just show up and they reckoned that "since you're here, you might as well..."?

What really detains us, though, is that strange edition of Top Of The Pops which filled the gap that normally would have had an episode of QI in. Incidentally, how do they think poor Huw Edwards feels, getting ready to read the news, hearing everyone on BBC One telling the massive audience to turn over and not watch him. I bet he has to wipe a little tear each time it happens.

Now, although it was coming from the Comic Relief studio and there were a couple of extra nods to the event - superimposing red noses on the chart rundown, for example - this was, to all intents and purposes, like Top Of The Pops had never been canceled. Even down to that Top Ten and having the number one act live in the studio. Sure, there was a bit of smudging the boundaries, but even the shoe-horning of Oasis and U2 was for their latest singles rather than, say, something that people might actually want to hear. It was all a little bizarre having, in the midst of 'very special episodes of', to get 'more or less a bog-standard edition of' a programme that doesn't even exist any more. If nothing else, it showed there's still an enormous amount of affection for the old warhorse both amongst bands and at the BBC.

Perhaps if someone could come up with a chart that actually reflected the new music scene, there might be a second life for the programme...

Barbara Dickson hurt not to be asked back

This year, Scotland is holding a huge series of homecoming events, which the Scottish parliament seems to think will underline how talented the nation is, but in effect just points up how many people can't wait to flee as soon as they get a bit of success.

Someone, though, forgot to invite Barbara Dickson:

She said: "Homecoming? I've never been asked to come home. I wasn't invited to participate in anything to do with launching that. I never even got an invitation to the opening of the parliament."

How surprising that they would have even thought of opening a parliament without inviting the woman who did Pearls A Singer. Oh, hang on, that was Elkie, wasn't it?

Dickson also tuts over the state of Scotland's music:
"In Scotland, it's vital that young folk are playing the fiddle and the box and that people sing. It keeps the music alive. The country needs its culture."

Dickson was talking from her home in Lincolnshire.

That sound? It's just weeping

Boston Public Health Commission has carried out a snap survey of local teenagers' reactions to Chris Brown's attack on Rihanna. If the Commission had been hoping to release a positive-sounding press release about how far we've come in public attitudes to domestic violence, they would be disappointed:

“Somehow young people have gotten the message that this is just part of a relationship,” said anti-violence advocate Deborah Collins-Gousby.

Of the 200 Boston youths (ages 12 to 19) surveyed last month, 51 percent said Chris Brown was responsible for the incident, 46 percent said Rihanna was responsible and 52 percent said both were to blame; 52 percent said the media was treating Brown unfairly; 44 percent said fighting was a normal part of a relationship; and a “significant” number said “Rihanna was destroying Chris Brown’s career.” Women blamed Rihanna as much as men did.

I'm not quite sure how 51 per cent can blame Brown, 46 per cent can blame Rihanna and then another 52 per cent can blame both of them. But since the responses defy all understanding, there's no reason why they shouldn't also defy mathematical logic too.

Ofcom remembers it's a regulator; Global not happy

GWR Bristol, part of the clumsy Global Radio behemoth, has been warned by Ofcom for not actually playing the music it promised to. Ofcom sampled the station and wasn't happy:

This Spot Sampling report arose after Ofcom received complaints that GWR FM is not delivering the music proposition set out in its Format, which is to play ‘contemporary and chart’ music.

After listening to three days of GWR FM’s music output, we found that the overall mix of music being aired by the station was too old for it to be consistent with the Format’s Character of Service.

GWR FM is not operating within its Format and a Yellow Card warning has been issued.

Ofcom was quite fair to GWR - it didn't count The Time Tunnel in its calculations but still found that more than half the music played on the station is over two years old. And it didn't do anything more than issue a warning: play what you were promising to when you were given a licence allowing you access to the finite FM spectrum.

Matter closed?

Oh, no: Global are having a hissy fit and stamping their pretty, London-based feet:
“GWR Bristol was asked to supply music logs to Ofcom by today, Friday 13 March. The requested information was supplied by yesterday, 12 March. Ofcom’s decision was made without reference to either the station, or by talking to its owners, Global Radio.

“This is an extraordinary way for a regulator to behave by issuing a judgement before a deadline has passed. We do not accept this finding, and are considering our position.”

But Ofcom didn't issue a judgement, they issued a warning that if things don't improve, they might issue a judgement. And they didn't really need to wait for the logs - perhaps Global don't realise that their programmes are on the radio and you can find out what they're doing by listening to them.

There is a wider background to this, though, as Global rebrand as many of their stations Heart as they can get away with. Ofcom isn't bothered about the change of name, but is keeping a close eye on Global trying to change Top 40 stations into oldies stations by stealth. Something which it has form for, as Ofcom points out:
This warning concerns GWR Bristol, but we received similar complaints about a number of Global stations and we advise the licensee to take this finding into account for programming across all its CHR stations. Ofcom has had conversations with the licensee about content on its CHR stations in the past.

Of course, if Global really wants to change its format, it can simply hand back the licenses and reapply.

[Story discovered on Mr Trick's Twitter]

Gordon in the morning: Hail Jackson

So, yes, that carefully phrased wording of Jackson's swansong?. Gordon reveals the words "in London" did mean these are simply the last dates in London:

After testing the water in London at the O2 and being astonished by the unprecedented response, promoters will take his swan song around the world.

New York, Las Vegas, Mumbai and Paris are all likely venues, with Jacko ready to dominate the pop calendar for the next three years.

The thought of Jackson "dominating the pop calendar" for three long years really does suck the joy out of the future, doesn't it?

But in what way is the response unprecedented? Concerts selling out isn't unprecedented, is it? Man announces gigs. People buy tickets.

Gordon, can you find someone to stress just how unprecedented this is?
After the mad ticket rush yesterday, AEG Live promoter Randy Phillips said: “That wasn’t anticipated.

“We never thought it would be 50 shows and, frankly, based on the queues on Ticketmaster, plus the 300,000 registrants we still haven’t issued codes to, we could spend two years here."

It wasn't anticipated? So you went ahead and booked for fifty nights expecting nobody would turn up and were surprised that people arrived waving cheques and postal orders?

And the protestations of "we never thought it would be fifty shows" would be a little more believable if all the pre-launch stories in the papers hadn't, erm, predicted fifty shows.

Still, don't expect anything in the way of critical thinking from Gordon. Oh, no, you can already sense the Sun gearing up to appoint itself the official Jackson paper during the gigs:
I expected Jackomania, but this is off the scale.

Did you see the King Of Pop on tour in the 1980s or 1990s? Email me on and we might contact you for a bit of Jacko reminiscing.

Did you read the Sun's coverage of Michael Jackson's trials in the early 2000s or the child-dangling incident? Keep quiet about it, don't spoil it for them.

Gordo also offers his readers a surprising opportunity of a lifetime:
Click here to enter your vote and help decide the set list for Michael Jackson's forthcoming concerts.

Wow - despite the Mirror having the finalised set list earlier in the week?

To be fair to Gordon, nowhere does he say that the massive form you can fill in to select song titles from a randomly-truncated list of Jackson's back catalogue will actually have any bearing on the songs played at the gigs, just that you're picking the songs "you'd like to hear".

There is no way you can simply write in demands for him to cover Billy Idol songs, either, which is surely missing a trick.

Elsewhere, Gordon reports on Ricky Wilson's evening:
THE KAISER CHIEFS are not known for riotous laddish antics and I certainly wouldn’t have predicted this.

On Wednesday I’m told some of the Leeds lads were spotted on a boys’ night out at a seedy London strip club where punters splash out £20 per dance on strippers.

Paying money to see women take their clothes off. That is seedy, isn't it, Gordon? Especially since the link to Page Three on your pages gives breasts for free.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Revlon ask if Rihanna is "appropriate" for Cover Girl

How charming the Revlon cosmetics company is. In a bid to try and push its grease-and-water concoctions a little ahead in the market, they're carrying out a survey which appears to be trying to test if the whole Rihanna-being-beaten-up story has harmed their rivals, Cover Girl:

[Their online survey] then questions people if they are aware of the person in the commercial (without saying Rihanna's name), if they've heard about her in the news lately, if they have an opinion about the person and if they feel the person is "an appropriate spokesperson" for the product.

Sure, it's all business, and all business is dirty. But you'd have to ask never mind if Rihanna is appropriate for CoverGirl; the pertinent question is what self-respecting woman or bloke would use cosmetics made by a company seeking to make marketing hay from a woman being beaten up by her partner?

Cornell bites back with vague New Testament references

Yesterday, Trent Reznor was less-than-flattering about Chris Cornell's new album.

Cornell wasn't going to take that lolling about like a barely-coherent buffoon. Or at least he'd try not to not to, shooting this back:

“What do you think Jesus would twitter,” Cornell asks. ” ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ or ‘Has anyone seen Judas? He was here a minute ago.’ ”

It's almost certain that Jesus would be posting sarcastic tweets to defend an indefensible record. What's less clear is why Cornell believes that Reznor is one of his disciples.

YouTube vs the PRS: Feargal Sharkey pipes up

Go on: guess whose side Feargal has come out on in the battle between YouTube and the PRS?

Why, yes, the plucky little PRS:

Sharkey accused Google, which owns YouTube, of blocking the videos in order to force the PRS to lower its price.

Sharkey said Google was a "large company thinking they're in a position to bully around a little society that represents 60,000 songwriters".

But is it really bullying, Sharkey? The PRS threatens that if YouTube don't settle, they won't be able to show any videos in the UK. So YouTube stops showing videos in the UK. It's not entirely clear how if - as the PRS and Sharkey believe - the musicians are doing YouTube a favour by allowing their music to appear on the network, that YouTube can be "bullying" them by removing the videos.

Unless, of course, it's in the interests of musicians and songwriters to have access to YouTube - but that would imply that the favour runs in the opposite direction.
"Quite frankly I'd hoped that by this point in the week Google would have reflected on the mistake they'd made and were willing to move away from the position they'd taken," Sharkey said.

"But quite clearly they're still in the mood to bully our songwriters, our musicians, and that's not acceptable."

Yeah, Google - stop bullying songwriters by not playing their videos for your own benefit.
Sharkey also charged Google with attempting to "hold them hostage and demand that they start to underwrite their business model".

"That is totally inappropriate and in fact mildly offensive," he said.

Sharkey isn't an idiot; he's a smart man, and as such must know that he's talking rubbish. If he really does believe that Google are rolling in cash after the costs of hosting and playing pop videos, then he probably shouldn't be in such a key position in the UK music industry.

Everyone should share in what's available, but nobody gains anything by pretending you've found a pot of gold when you're looking at some loose change.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: CNN on line two

Surely, with CNN's website calling on Gennaro Castaldo's knowledge-synapse, it can now only be a matter of days until he is fully deployed as Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room's very own Global Tune Expert.

It's the phenomenon of a washed-out old corpse booking a big London tent for fifty nights that has brought CNN to Castaldo's door. What does all this Jackson activity mean?

Gennaro Castaldo, spokesman for UK music retailer HMV, said Jackson was already reaping the benefits of hosting the concerts.

"Sales of Michael's albums are starting to show a discernible increase, albeit from a relatively low sales base at this early stage. However, if demand is picking up now, imagine what it will be like in July, when Michael actually kicks off his live performances."

Castaldo said sales of his "King Of Pop" album released in August had increased four-fold, while sales of "Thriller" had nearly doubled.

To be fair to Castaldo, he did attempt to point out that "four-fold increase" could mean "sixteen copies compared to four last week", but his excitement at the prospect of possibly selling even more records in July seems to have swept CNN along.

Sadly, Castaldo doesn't explain who he thinks will be buying the records in large quantities this summer - anyone who wasn't excited enough by the coverage of the launch who somehow is excited enough by the actual gig, presumably? "The blanketing of Jackson's ungodly face-hole in March wasn't enough to remind me of his existence, but the dull thud of someone playing Say Say Say quite near the Thames somehow did, and so I shall now buy a record"

Darkness at 3AM: The Razorlight truce is over

The 3AM Girls surprise the world with something that almost smacks of reporting. Although, to be honest, getting Andy Burrows to withdraw his soft statement on leaving Razorlight probably took little more work than tapping him on the shoulder and pressing play and record:

Speaking for the first time about the rift, Andy tells us: "It was hell. I'm so glad I'm out of it.

"I hated being in the band. Johnny and I didn't get on. Now I've got my freedom.

"He never wanted people to know that we both wrote songs and I couldn't be in control. I'm happy again. Don't get me wrong - I had some fond memories. We achieved some great things together and had amazing experiences. But now at least I'm happy.

"I'm drumming for We Are Scientists, working on my own material and doing stuff for other bands."

It's almost as if Borrell is some sort of control-freak or something, isn't it? Just imagine...

Vaseline reapplied

More forthcoming-record-news-excitement: SubPop are re-releasing Enter The Vaselines in May, in a luxury double-CD package. Which can sometime mean a disc full of old rubbish, but this being The Vaselines, has got a pretty delicious sounding listing:

1. Son of A Gun (demo)
2. Rosary Job (demo)
3. Red Poppy (demo)
4. Son of A Gun (live in Bristol)
5. Rosary Job (live in Bristol)
6. Red Poppy (live in Bristol)
7. Rory Rides Me Raw (live in Bristol)
8. You Think You’re a Man (live in Bristol)
9. Dying for It (live in London)
10. Monsterpussy (live in London)
11. Let’s Get Ugly (live in London)
12. Molly’s Lips (live in London)
13. The Day I Was a Horse (live in London)
14. The Day I Was A Horse (Again) (live in London)
15. Sex Sux (Amen) (live in London)
16. I Didn’t Know I Loved You (‘Til I Saw You Rock ‘n’ Roll) (live in London)
17. Teenage Superstars (live in London)

There's a pre-release gig at the Forum on March 28th as well.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Live from Croydon

After a refit - basically burning the Zavvi sign and slapping a picture of a dog up in its place - the old Virgin Megastore in Croydon reopens as an HMV. Gennaro Castaldo, director of the thoughts department at HMV, is delighted:

Gennaro Castaldo, chief press officer at HMV, said that although the stores were within a short distance of each other he was confident they could both thrive and develop their own identities.

Mr Castaldo added: "Croydon is such a large shopping area with a large flow of people coming in."

Although when the store was a Zavvi, both shops really did have different identities, and that didn't work out well, did it?

Gordon in the morning: My word is my Bond girl

Hey, journalists? Got a column to fill, and a deadline to meet? Why not think of the most buzzed-over female celebrity of the moment and write a column claiming she's going to be the next Bond girl?

Here's an example of that in action: Freida Pinto, out of Slumdog Millionaire. She's popular right now, and so clearly, she's bound to be the next Bond girl. Right, Gordon?

SLUMDOG Millionaire beauty FREIDA PINTO could become the new Bond girl — after being invited to a screen test for the next spy adventure.

See? It's easy.

Gordon seems to get a little bit confused between 'actors' and 'characters' in his excitement:
Freida could follow in the footsteps of Bond babes such as Plenty O’Toole in 1971 classic Diamonds Are Forever.

But why mention Plenty O'Toole anyway? Could it be simply to try and make sense of the headline?
Diamonds Are Freida

How out-of-control would your tongue have to be before you could pronounce 'Freida' to sound a bit like 'Forever'?

I'm sure Gordon's got really strong reasons for believing his story, and hasn't just extrapolated a star based on the rumours that Danny Boyle is going to direct the next Bond movie.

Somewhat oddly, just reloading the Bizarre page, the 'story' has vanished from its top left position, being replaced with that tiresome Noel Gallagher environment story.

Kittin, Hacker reunited: Two become Two

It's been eight years, give or take, since Miss Kittin and The Hacker's first album, First Album. Now, they're back with album number two, Two.

They're celebrating by giving stuff away - both K and H have made mp3 mixtapes up, and - at least for the time being - there's this video of Suspicious Minds. Yes, yes, a Presley cover. But, oh, what a Presley cover:

Two is out on May 19th.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mick Jagger has had sex with himself, effectively

MTV Brazil is encouraging safer sex by running an advertising campaign which seems to imply that whoever you have sex with will have had sex with Mick Jagger at some point, or words to that effect.

It's kind of like rock family trees, but with "shagged" replacing "drummed for version #3 of the band".

I'm not quite sure the chain manages to prove that all sex is, in effect, a circle jerk for Jagger - Eminem shagged Geri Halliwell? Johnny Thunders shagged the hole (sic) world? Something very odd about someone having sex with a tree that became the bed on which David Bowie shagged Mick Jagger?

The message is "always use condoms", although if you are going to have sex with a tree, be aware that condoms can't save you from splinters, even if they can help prevent unplanned saplings.

Noel Gallagher is just so cool about not being cool

You'd have thought that if you wanted to shut Chris Martin up about the environment, you'd ask him about his SUV or private plane. Not if youre Noel Gallagher, though:

"He said: 'Why do you think it's cool not to care?' and I said, 'Well, I don't think it's cool, I don't think I'm being cool.'

"I actually couldn't give a fuck about what's going on outside my family: me, my missus, my two kids and my mam, and her parents... that's it, for me.

"Other than that, it's not my problem, but that's not to say you shouldn't care about it!

"Each to their own and I'm glad there's people like that. But I just like to look after my own."

Happily, Noel doesn't live in the same planet as anybody else, and his family will somehow not be affected by the changing climate. For some reason. Perhaps his guitar will somehow deflect... something...
... live in the forest... forage for food... he's not just showing off like a teenage kid affecting not to be bovvered, no...

Aretha: Titfer ye lots

I'm not entirely sure this isn't a story that has been doing the rounds for a while, but Aretha Franklin's inauguration hat is selling by the bucketload. Which is appropriate, since it looked it a little like a bucket, only with a big bow on.

The hat that is being sold isn't actually the same hat, because like the Mastermind chair they didn't want to turn it into a commercial item. But the designer Luke Song has made a hat quite a lot like Aretha's, which seems to be a questionable workaround - "it would be tacky to sell hats that were like Aretha's, so we'll only sells hates that are a bit like Aretha's instead." It neither preserves the uniqueness of the actual hat, nor satisfies the desires of those who wish to own one.

Fifty nights? Seriously?

Michael Jackson has stretched his planned dates at the Millennium Dome to a cash sapping fifty nights, spread over several months.

Fifty gigs? I know Jacko is strapped for cash, but isn't this just looking needy?

Apart from any other consideration, those people who bought tickets yesterday spent hours wrestling Ticketmaster in the belief they were buying a pass to some of Michael Jackson's farewell shows. Now, it turns out that he's going to be doing more after them than he's played in about two decades.

And - in order for him to get some proper rest between songs - the run doesn't end until Janaury 2010. That's longer than most West End musicals manage. Sure, the first couple of dates might seem a bit special, but by next Winter "Michael Jackson playing a gig" is going to become such a commonplace it's going to be on a par with Gordon Brown trying to put on a brave face as economic indicators hang a "twinned with Harare" sign outside the Bank Of England.

One other thing: there's been a lot of suggestion (especially with the This is IT branding) that what's being offered is Jackson's swansong.

“Michael is said to be ‘thrilled’ by the response and wanted as many fans to share the experience with him as possible,” the Website adds. “This will be the last chance to see the King of Pop in London, this really is it!”

The presence of the words "in London" suggests that there's every chance, if he makes it unscathed through this fifty gigs, he'll be popping up in Vegas, or New York, or maybe even Winchester just as soon as he manages to run up eyewatering debts again.

So, that's Jackson: The last chance to see him in Winchester. Coming 2011.

Nobiz Zoe

Not only are we pinching James P's email, but we've even lifted his headline for the news that Zoe Griffin has quit the Sunday Mirror:

No word on where she's going; Maybe to pursue a career in an area of the media where there's less chance of being physically assaulted by an Osbourne. Which I think leaves 'Speaking Clock' and 'Putting Up the Small-Ad Postcards in Somerfield'.

Zoe had billed herself as the "youngest, hottest" gossip columnist, which was untrue even before the younger Dan Wootton started at the News of the World. Seasoned readers of the Sunday Mirror had noticed that Zoe's profile had slipped somewhat recently, to the extent that she even had difficulty getting her resignation letter printed.

Trent tweets; NME reports; we blog

... and all because Chris Cornell's album is rotten:

“You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly YOU feel uncomfortable? Heard Chris Cornell's record? Jesus.”

Wonderfully, NME spins out the 140 word tweet into a full page, with a headline which tells you what the tweet said; a standfirst which tells you what the tweet said, an introductory paragraph which tells you what the tweet said, and the tweet itself.

There's no reason to not report interesting stuff found on Twitter. But the way you report on it might need a few tweaks.

"I bought my tickets off a man with no nose" "How do they smell?" "

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal revealed how Britney Spears and Neil Diamond appeared to be scalping their own tickets.

Today, sister paper The Times reveals that Michael Jackson has been doing the same thing - or, at least, the promoter of his shows:

The Times understands that outside the official sale of the tickets, AEG Live approached secondary ticketing companies — which allow people to resell tickets to sporting and music events — offering to provide them directly with between 500 and 1,000 tickets for each performance.

It is thought that AEG Live offered the tickets on the understanding that they were sold at about £500 each, with 80 per cent of the revenue returning to AEG Live and the secondary ticketing company taking the remaining 20 per cent.

Last night tickets for seats closest to the stage were on sale on Viagogo for thousands of pounds. Other seats in prime locations seemed to be on sale at surprisingly uniform rates, with many priced at £418 and £659.

AEG Live did not deny its links to Viagogo. The company previously said in a statement: “In an effort to ensure fans are able to purchase premium tickets and exchange tickets directly with other fans, AEG Live has entered into an agreement with Viagogo. The online site allows people to buy and sell live event tickets in a safe and guaranteed way.”

Is it just me, or does that statement totally miss the point - the question would seem to be 'have you deliberately started selling tickets on the secondary market, rather than sell them for face value', to which that is not an answer.

There is an argument that some, or perhaps all, tickets for popular events be sold through an auction; but surely the most important thing is that the process is transparent?

If AEG wants to charge £500 for a £50 ticket, why can't it be honest about it?

Will someone tell me why I keep adapting these damn cult movies into stage musicals

Here's more warm memories about to be squished up in the liquidiser of quick cash shakedowns: Heathers - The Musical:

The readings saw "Veronica Mars" star Kristen Bell playing the lead

Can it get any worse?
The film offered many over-top-moments as well as choice lines, something Fickman is eager to bring out musically.

" 'I love my dead gay son," [Developer Andy] Fickman quoted. "If you can get that into a song, then that is just perfect."

No it isn't, because if you put it into a song, it turns something that was simultaneously hypocritical and touching into just a campy laugh. In fact, putting songs into Heathers is a bit like doing The Sound Of Music without songs - a fundamental misunderstanding of what the story is about.

Illegal downloading isnt a crime, say FAC

Interesting noises coming from the meeting of the Featured Artists Coalition.

First, that it's a body which is determined to not be seen as a Trades Union. It's keen to stress it doesn't want to usurp the Musician's Union:

Writing on Comment is Free, Billy Bragg [...] stresses that the FAC is not a "pop stars" union, as the Musicians Union already fulfils that role, but "a campaigning organisation that seeks to achieve fair remuneration in exchange for widespread access".

It's not quite clear what the organisation is, if not a union. You might have thought that a group of workers drawn from a particular industry collectively bargaining for better pay and conditions would be exactly what a union is; perhaps as many of its members are self-employed, they'd rather be seen as a Guild?

Whatever it is, it's busily carving out a position for itself somewhere to the left of the groups which currently claim to speak for music - most notably by voting against the legal pursuit of alleged file-sharers:
Bragg told The Independent that most of the artists had voted against supporting any move towards criminally prosecuting ordinary members of the public for illegally downloaded music.

Bragg was speaking as a key member of the coalition, which was set up to give a collective voice to artists who want to fight for their rights in the digital world. It is pushing for a fairer deal for musicians at a time when they can use the internet to forge direct links with their fans. "What I said at the meeting was that the record industry in Britain is still going down the road of criminalising our audience for downloading illegal MP3s," he said.

"If we follow the music industry down that road, we will be doing nothing more than being part of a protectionist effort. It's like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.

"Artists should own their own rights and they should decide when their music should be used for free, or when they should have payment."

There's much to worry about for the record labels there - most obviously the first empirical evidence that the artists in whose name these prosecutions are being carried out don't support the policy.

More subtly, there's that distinction Bragg has made between the people who make the music and the "music industry".

It's still far from clear what the FAC actually sees as the future, but it's becoming apparent that, unlike the RIAA and the PRS, they're not working from the assumption that the solution is to try and force the old business plans onto the new distribution channels.

The logical direction would seem to be for the FAC to create their own royalty collection agency, able to work above national boundaries and with digital distributors, and without the years of bureaucracy and overheads carried by the PRS.

Ringo Starr: Now I'm confused

In the first batch of weak ads marking the rebranding of Norwich Union to Snickers, Ringo Starr was featured, muttering that it was only by changing his name that he was able to unleash the power of fame. Or words to that effect. "Would any of this have happened", he asked, "if I was still Richard Starkey?"

In the new batch of even weaker ads, Ringo pops up, looking grim-faced, insisting that he doesn't want to be called by his stage name.

Eh? So he rebranded successfully to Ringo, and yet doesn't want to be known as Ringo, believing that his actual name is still Richard Starkey? So if his name is Richard, then his question in the original advert, 'would this have happened if I was called Richard' would be answered 'yes, because I am.'

And if he's Richard sometimes, and Ringo at others, isn't the message from this that you can be flexible with your name according to circumstances? And doesn't that mean that, actually, Norwich Union could still be Norwich Union when it's drumming for the Beatles, and Aviva when it's at home?

Or... did nobody really think the adverts through at all?

Vodaphone dump DRM

It's not just another staging post on the road to DRM-free music, but also a further blow to Windows Media Audio and Microsoft's attempts to lock in its unlovely format as music encoder of choice: Vodaphone is swapping from DRMed WMA files to unlocked mp3s for its mobile music store.

And in an even more surprising example of getting it right, if you've previously bought a DRMed song from the shop, you can swap it for a proper one, for free.

The irony, of course, is that if the original track didn't have DRM, you wouldn't be able to swap them. But then you wouldn't need to.

Jackson: You don't say say say

Panting breathlessly, the Mirror's Tom Bryant announces an exclusive:

The Daily Mirror has seen the setlist the King of Pop has handed to AEG Live, who run London’s O2 Arena where he will play a residency in July.

Yes, it turns out that Jackson's greatest hits show will feature Michael Jackson doing greatest hits.

Aware that this might be less-than-surprising, the paper then drags in Scott Mills, off the Lottery Draw show, to "comment" on each track. No, really. Not only does the paper think you might need someone to comment on Thriller, as if you've not heard it a billion times before, but they thought the best person to do so would be Scott Mills.

Prepare to cut-out-and-keep:
Billie Jean

- This has one of the best base lines I've ever heard in my life.

Wanna be startin' somethin

- Excellent opening of the classic Thriller album. Wicked choice.

Rock with you

- Slow funky classic that rates among his best.

The way you make me feel

- Best intro to a Jacko song (apart from Thriller!) Top one Michael.

Don't stop till you get enough

- The ultimate disco anthem. I can never get enough of this one.

I just can't stop loving you

- One for the ladies and romantics in the audience

Human Nature

- One of Thriller's slower moments but well worth including in the list

Smooth criminal

- One of my favourite Jacko videos and songs too


- Very much a filler from Off The Wall. Not for me.

Man in the Mirror

- Loving it when the gospel kicks in. Lets hope he gets a full choir involved.

Beat it

- What an incredible guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen. Get him over to the UK!

One day in your life

- Early Jackson that was a bigger hit here than in the UK. Good one to get in.

Heal the World

- Michael's one-man Band Aid.

Remember the time

- Not his finest hour but will appeal to some I reckon.

You are not alone

- Written for Jacko by R Kelly but don't let that put you off. Still a popular one to have.


- Possibly the best group dance routine ever. Let's see if he can do it all on stage again in the summer

Look, the Mirror says it's Scott Mills and it didn't just cut and paste comments off YouTube videos. It's not entirely clear where the "here" that Mills reckons One Day In Your Life was a bigger hit in that the UK. Or, indeed, why Mills seemed to be talking more about the videos or recorded versions than if they're going to work in a large tent.

Michael Jackson is expected to repay the compliments by commenting on all of Scott Mills links today; he's going to do it on Twitter or something. "This prank phone call is spot-on - Scott is hilarious"

Gordon in the morning: Embracing Pete Doherty

Given that the Sun suggested he was an irredeemable, drug-addled reprobate, and that the paper hunted him for sport not so long back, the appearance of a large, fawning interview with Doherty in today's Bizarre column is either a heartwarming piece of rapprochement, or a puzzling embrace of monster and tormentor.

Naturally, Gordon's not going to fawn over Doherty without stressing how all that stuff you might have thought about him (because you read it in Gordon's pages) is wrong:

KATE MOSS’s controversial ex has said he is happy being single — and has pledged to keep his distance from women.

He said: “I’ve come into my own head a little bit really, being a bit more honest and open, rather than hiding in a crack pipe or wherever and just not turning up most of the time.”

Not that Smart is totally leaving himself open to having drug-flavoured egg on his cardigan should this turn out to be like the other times Pete "quit" drucks:
Pete insists he is now off the drugs — but I will need a bit more convincing.

Interestingly, though, Gordon offers no explanation as to why he doesn't believe the man he's interviewing, which you might have thought would have been at least polite.

Still, he does give Doherty a chance to talk about himself:
He combines popular culture with big philosophical ideas

Yes, Gordon. That's what he does.
such as this comparison of himself with Del Boy from Only Fools And Horses.

Pete concluded: “It’s like Trotters Independent Traders.

“For years they got by on three wheels and a lot of the fun was in the dream and scheme and the scrapes and near misses.

“But really and truly all Del ever wanted was actually to achieve something secretly, you know?”

Not quite sure where 'describing the plot of Only Fools And Horses badly' contains a big philosophical idea - or indeed anything that John Sullivan hadn't put in there in the first place. And Del didn't make any secret of wanting to achieve something did he? Isn't that the point of the schemes and the dream?

Gordon decides to have a go at combining popular culture and "big philosophical ideas" for himself:
This time next year, Pete...but not if the three wheels fall off again.

Well, at least he had a try.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who's scalping who? Artists tout their own tickets

Something to remember the next time you see artists and promoters getting upset about people flogging tickets on at inflated prices: some artists are doing the scalping themselves:

Less than a minute after tickets for last August's Neil Diamond concerts at New York's Madison Square Garden went on sale, more than 100 seats were available for hundreds of dollars more than their normal face value on premium-ticket site The seller? Neil Diamond.

Ticket reselling -- also known as scalping -- is an estimated $3 billion-a-year business in which professional brokers buy seats with the hope of flipping them to the public at a hefty markup.

In the case of the Neil Diamond concerts, however, the source of the higher-priced tickets was the singer, working with Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc., which owns TicketExchange, and concert promoter AEG Live. Ticketmaster's former and current chief executives, one of whom is Mr. Diamond's personal manager, have acknowledged the arrangement, as has a person familiar with AEG Live, which is owned by Denver-based Anschutz Corp.

So, it's absolutely fine for artists to deliberately hold tickets back, in order to flog them at artificially-inflated prices. But somehow, it's wrong for ordinary people to sell on tickets they no longer need at slightly higher price, and photographic IDs must be used when buying tickets to stop this practice.

The artists sales are done through Ticketmaster's official scalping site, with - as the Wall Street Journal points out - usually no indication that the sales are coming from 'official' sources rather than a selling-on by fans. Indeed, lengths seem to be traveled in order to make it look like it's coming from fans:
Tickets for a March 27 Britney Spears concert at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh were priced earlier this week at $39.50 to $125 apiece on But some of those same classes of seats were being offered at the same time through the "TicketExchange Marketplace" for as much as $1,188.60. The link to the Marketplace page was marked, "Browse premium seats plus tickets posted by fans."

Ms. Spears' spokeswoman declined to comment.

The ticket listings are offered in small batches, each at a price, such as $1,164.01, that mimics prices set via online auctions. After inquiries from The Wall Street Journal, the "tickets posted by fans" message was removed from the TicketExchange Web site. Prices also fell, narrowing the gap between Ticketmaster and TicketExchange Marketplace.

That this is all unethical is beyond question; perhaps more pertinent is the question of if it's entirely legal?

New Column soon

Coming in just over a month: Love In The Time Of Recession, the new Durutii Column album.

First track on the record is In Memory Of Anthony, a tribute to the late Mr. Wilson:

He always encouraged me to follow my instincts. And that's still how I work. All the new songs are a very true reflection of my life and that's all I want any album to be."

The album is already available for pre-purchase through, um, an ebay store.

Chris Brown does the right thing

It's not so much that it reflects well on Chris Brown that he has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Kids' Choice awards, as it reflects awfully on Nickelodeon. The kids' TV network has handed the moral high ground to a man who doesn't deserve it which leaves them looking a bit shabby.

Yesterday, of course, Nikelodeon were busily suggesting that the prize was based on the music alone:

"Like all our KCA nominees, was nominated by kids several months ago based on his body of work as a performer, and the kids who vote will ultimately decide who wins in the category," Dan Martinsen, Nickelodeon spokesman, told the Associated Press.

Oddly, now Brown has pulled out, their tune has changed:
Nickelodeon television network issued its own statement Wednesday.

"We agree with and respect his decision, and are looking forward to presenting a great event for our audience," it said.

But yesterday you said it was up to the kids - so, effectively, you're saying that you didn't think it was right to tell him he couldn't come, but it's right for him to realise he couldn't come? It's hard to tell if Nickelodeon is more spineless than it is self-serving, or more self-serving than it is spineless. Great lessons for the network to be teaching its audience, either way.

We don't either

Sweeping The Nation doesn't know what's going on here:

HI THERE! Welcome to the internet-based mouthpiece of several UK based bands who double up as AWESOME PALS TOGETHER. DON'T TAKE DRUGS BECAUSE YOU'LL GET IN TROUBLE.


I don't know, either. But I'm looking forward to finding out.

PRS v YouTube round-up: Artists offer their contribution

Perhaps unsurprisingly, artists are getting nervous about the PRS-Google dispute.

Beth Orton has come out in favour of royalties:

"Certain people can’t just make money from gigs, can they?" she told BBC 6music.

She added: "You should get money from recording, because record deals are different now as well, so it would make sense that revenue has to come from somewhere. It's been lovely for me because I've had the last two years to just concentrate on my little girl.

"That's been from working really hard for 10 years and then being able to live off the back of what I've done when those little royalty cheques come in."

Well, yes, and nobody wants to take bread from Beth Orton's children.

But this isn't really anything to do with the falling out between PRS and YouTube - this is about the rate paid for showing videos via the internet. And, from the collection agencies' own account, YouTube doesn't deliver enough money for anyone bar the largest bands to keep body and soul together. And forcing a royalty rate that makes it too expensive for YouTube to feature videos isn't going to do anything to change that.

Billy Bragg also seems slightly confused by the economics of the new music industry, telling Guardian readers:
"Our [the Featured Artists Coalition] target is not the music fan but the businesses that are making huge profits by exploiting artistic content for which they pay little or nothing at all."

The FT was carrying a prediction that YouTube will make USD180million in profits this year. This time last year, there were just under 80 million videos on YouTube, one in five of which were music. The rate of upload suggested a million new videos being added every five days, so roughly we'd be looking at something like 150 million videos by now. So, if we assume that the profits are drawn equally from the various parts of the site, that suggests YouTube makes USD18million in profits from the music videos - or about sixty cents per video. Given that successful videos are viewed millions of times, it's not entirely clear where Bragg has got the idea that anyone is making "huge" profits from. The numbers are large, but not once set in the scale.

Talking shuffles

Apple have just launched a new iPod Shuffle - it's even tinier than the last, and will announce songs in a crisp, clear voice to make up for the lack of a screen. It might be wise to teach it to yell "over here", too, what it with it being so small.

Oh, and the hard drive is four times the size of the second generation models.

Downloadable: Glasvegas

Together, at last: Glasvegas and Reverend and The Makers, as the latter remixes the former's Go Square Go and RCRD LBL serve it up as a free mp3.

Copyright "kills innovation", say economists

Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine of Washington University have just published a book, Against Intellectual Monopoly, which suggests that far from driving a knowledge-based economy, copyright (and patent law) actually drags the economy down:

"From a public policy view, we'd ideally like to eliminate patent and copyright laws altogether," says Levine, John H. Biggs Distinguished Professor of Economics. "There's plenty of protection for inventors and plenty of protection and opportunities to make money for creators. It's not that we see this as some sort of charitable act that people are going to invent and create things without earning money. Evidence shows very strongly there are lots of ways to make money without patents and copyright."

Levine and Boldrin point to students being sued for 'pirating' music on the internet and AIDS patients in Africa dying because they cannot afford expensive drugs produced by patent holders as examples of the failure of the current system. Boldrin, the Joseph Gibson Hoyt Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences and Chair of the economics department says, "Intellectual property is in fact an intellectual monopoly that hinders rather than helps the competitive free market regime that has delivered wealth and innovation to our doorsteps."

The pair are realistic - they're not expecting to argue the rules out of existence - but hope that they can shift a debate to a point where intellectual property law starts, slowly, to reflect its original purpose, of stimulating inventiveness, rather than smothering it with monopoly. Good luck with that, guys.

Brazil proposes DJ licence

In Brazil, you already need a licence in order to pursue a trade as a journalist or radio announcer. Now, there are plans to introduce a licence for DJs as well. There's also plans to introduce a quota which will insist that any event which has DJ involvement will have to feature 70% Brazilian, licensed DJs. (Or two locals to every Pete Tong, in other words.)

Lost in the vagueness of the legislation is some sort of quality threshold which would need to be passed in order to get your papers. The idea of the state acting as some sort of guarantor of quality for someone playing records might seem laughable - but the next time you find yourself at a wedding, you might find yourself being a little jealous of the Brazilians and their minimum standards.

Gordon in the morning: It's about the Michael Jacksons

With the world, or at least the very small section of it interested in Michael Jackson, busy swearing at Ticketmaster, Gordon brings news of the plans:

MICHAEL JACKSON’s London comeback is going ahead with a little help from rock Lord ROD STEWART.

The FACES frontman is renting Jacko his swish Essex mansion as the weird one stages his ten-show residency at The O2 in July.

And the headline for this 'man rents house' story?
Don't stop 'til you get Rod's gaff

- which sounds like a Jackson song. Until you get to the word "get", when it stops sounding like a Jackson song.

There are plans in hand to make the event something of a spectacle, too:
[AEG boss] Phillips said: “He wants to use some technical effects that have never been seen before.”

First U2, now Jackson - what is this obsession with often-disappointing ideas about "things people have never seen before"? If you're meant to be a music legend, isn't the appearance of you, singing your songs, meant to be spectacle enough?

So, what has Michael got in mind, then, that nobody has ever seen before?
He is planning to emulate illusionist DAVID BLAINE and FLOAT over the stage.

Oh, yes. Flying on stage. That's not been done before, has it?

Meanwhile, Gordon makes sure his byline appears prominently on the story about Geri Halliwell splitting from whoever it was Geri Halliwell was most recently going out with:
2 become 1 in love split

Wow. Not being able to understand Spice Girls song titles is quite a surprising lack of grasp on comprehension.

So how is that Michael Jackson super-priority ticket sale going?

Let's ask Twitterfall, shall we?

tbush: Bugger! Frantically trying to get Michael Jackson tickets via the O2 customer site and the site is down. Not cool!

tkei: Wife is trying to buy tickets to see Michael Jackson in concert and the servers have crashed. No surprises there really.

Boborato: Here we go once again for Michael Jackson's tickets... stucked on "Your wait time is approximately 15 minutes or more"...

patrick: Wow after 30 minutes in line for Michael Jackson, the website updated.... now approx 14 minutes wait time :)

monodot: Dumped out of the queue for Michael Jackson tickets after half an hour with a "could not complete your request" msg. Try again....

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom:
DanAYC: has bagged 4 tickets for Michael Jackson at the o2 arena, cant get back to sleep! WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOO HHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOO

Well, if you can count 'getting tickets to see a shambling legend effectively reduced to busking' as some sort of win.

Of course, Twitter is a self-selecting sample, but it seems for every happy customer, there's eight or nine people suffering from Ticketmaster's inability to manage, seemingly, any large scale demand for tickets. Which you might have thought would be their key business.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Devo, oh yes

Nearly twenty years since Smooth Noodle Maps, Devo are in the studio, making a new album.

Ex-Manowar man explains how illegal downloading works

Ross The Boss Friedman has been patiently explaining how the internet is collaborating with journalists to somehow stop him sending his son to college:

Okay, so two weeks before my record was to be released on AFM in Germany, it was available online in Russia. By thieves. So anyone who wanted could just go there and get it. This happens to every single group that tries to release a record and puts out promo copies to journalists that probably for 15-100 euros sends it off to a friend in Russia or wherever. Then it is illegally downloaded. So what happens is the artists get fucked in the ass. The record company gets fucked in the ass and will eventually have to close its doors and not sign anymore groups. So the scene gets destroyed. The record company gets destroyed. The artist can't make any money from his work. They have to just go on touring and selling merchandise. Eventually the whole scene will just evaporate.

It's the JOURNALISTS, is it? What terrible scum, somehow selling records to Russian THIEVES for some reason.

Does he really believe that there are people in Russia forking out thousands and thousands of Euro a month to get hold of records in advance? The Russians download them for free off the internet like everyone else, Friedman. And while it's unfortunate that the change in the media has made your old business model unsustainable, boo-hooing that you're going to have "go on touring" and "selling merchandise" - or "working", as it's sometimes known - in order to make money isn't really an approach to elicit much sympathy at a time when hundreds of thousands people are losing their jobs altogether.

You didn't used to sell music, you used to extract value from its rarity. That rarity is no longer there; even if there were no journalists, and no Russians, you'd no longer have rarity. It's heartbreaking. But no amount of swearing is going to bring the old days back. And it's the same for everyone.

Don't confuse 'music as I know it' with 'music' as a whole being at an end.

By the way: Your obsession with anal sex makes it sound like you think it's a bad thing.

The record club's old

It's been a few years since there's been much evidence of the Britannia Music Club advertising in British magazines; now, it's American counterpart, the BMG music service, is closing.

This is one of those 'buy one full price, get a squillion CDs free' deals that used the offer to lure you in, before announcing that you'd be stuck having to buy at least one record a month for the rest of your natural life; fail to choose a record, and you'd be sent the "club choice". Which would usually be rubbish.

It's hard to see what could possibly have gone wrong. Although Rolling Stone has an idea:

At one point in the service’s history, BMG offered “10 CDs for the price of half,” meaning you could get 10 albums just for buying one-half priced CD, and that’s it. The total math, after shipping charges, came out to roughly $27 for 10 CDs. Thus, we pretended on the subscription forms that our suburban home was an apartment complex, created a ton of aliases and signed up for the service over 25 times, raking in 250 CDs in the process. It ate up a lot of stamps responding “Not Interested” to each month’s spotlight release mailers, but in the long run it was worth it. Share your fond memories of the music service in the comments.

Of course, ultimately it was the decline in physical sales, and CD prices, which did for these clubs. Why pay seven bucks for a CD you don't want when you can get something you do, for the same price, from Target?

Chris Brown hopes the kids forgive him

It appears that Nickelodeon, the kid's TV channel, have decided to keep Chris Brown in the nominations for a Kids' Choice Award, and no amount of being accused of beating up his partner is going to change that:

"Like all our KCA nominees, was nominated by kids several months ago based on his body of work as a performer, and the kids who vote will ultimately decide who wins in the category," Dan Martinsen, Nickelodeon spokesman, told the Associated Press.

Blimey. You have to admire Nickelodeon's firm line on sticking to its rules, whatever might have happened outside of that body of work. It's perhaps a questionable approach for a kids' event, where the children will have read that Chris Brown has beaten the face off Rihanna but are still invited to weigh his music while learning that no behaviour has any real consequences. It's great news, though, for any acts who might have thought that being nominated for a children's award might require them to behave with a modicum of decorum in the future. "We're being judged on the body of work, so what does it matter if we eat the odd neighbour, right?"

PRS v Google: Round-up

Much, much more scattering of reaction from around the world to Google's decision to pull music videos off YouTube.

First up, Helienne Lindvall called for us to think about the songwriters:

[A]s a songwriter myself, I can tell you that most songwriters haven't seen any income from YouTube at all, since a music video has to be viewed hundreds of thousands of time, to take it over the required threshold where you even get a payment. I've been told that videos by Coldplay and similar acts would make a couple of hundred pounds, at most, for getting millions of hits on a single video.

To which the obvious response is: well, yes - but where do you think the money is going to come from? There isn't a great deal of money in the expensive business of pumping video across the internet; any visitor to YouTube would attest that it's hardly a site swimming in high-quality advertisements. Perhaps the reason why the artists don't get much money is because that's all there is.

Indeed, this is the problem - nobody who controls music seems to be able to grasp that an individual song is worth considerably, considerably less in a multi-digital environment than it would have been when music lived on vinyl discs and a handful of radio stations. And you can't simply wish the price back up.
Another point that Google has failed to address is that a large part of the content they have or plan to take down is music written by people who are not covered by the PRS.

Yes, that's awful. But the PRS seems reluctant to actually do anything to stop that happening, doesn't it, Helienne?
Google wants the PRS to give them a list of who they represent and what songs and then Google will pay those composers if they get enough hits. The PRS want Google to give them the data of all that is being streamed on their site, and then they'll tell Google which songs are covered by the PRS.

If the PRS won't tell Google who it represents, then Google are going to have to guess?

Lindvall also argues that Google didn't have to take the music down:
The PRS has been in negotiations with sites like MySpace for years and never blocked them from using music while the negotiations are ongoing. My guess is that Google are trying to force PRS's hand by taking down all this content and trying to portray them as greedy and backwards thinking. A shrewd move, as they've gagged the collection society from revealing the real facts and details of the, no doubt, paltry deal that is on offer.

Well, yes. But then Google aren't obliged to pay the promotional and distribution costs of major labels, and if the PRS believes that Google is grievously underpaying for tracks on YouTube, surely it should be delighted that the people it represents are no longer being ripped off? It seems a little strange to claim that someone is robbing you blind, and then complain that they've stopped robbing you blind.

Of course, Google is not a plucky little David and is using the YouTube wipe out to make a point. But the PRS seems surprised that someone should call its bluff, as if there's something wrong at saying "we can't agree, let's just not bother."

Last FM are hoping to bang some heads together. Martin Stiksel knows that the end result if there isn't a quick resolution isn't going to be pretty for the PRS:
"We have to find commercially workable rates otherwise illegal services will win and take over," he said.

The suggestion that it's Google being greedy has taken another knock, with Jemima Kiss in the Guardian reporting that MySpace might be in a similar position:
MySpace UK and other sites are struggling to renegotiate their own licences with PRS, which pays royalties to artists.

One source close to the negotiations said that the launch of MySpace UK's comprehensive music service later this year could be thrown into jeopardy unless it secured an economically viable licence with PRS.

"A lot of service providers are negotiating and renewing licences with PRS right now, but the rates are widely known to be uneconomical," said the source. "Nobody could run an online business on those terms."

The report claims that the PRS is looking for rates based on the 2007 Copyright tribunal rates [pdf], at figures which make advertising-supported services unsustainable.

U2: Spinning disappointment into a victory

Hey, you - yes, you. You're hearing all that stuff about how disappointing the sales of the U2 album is, right? Well, it's not true. Or, at least, that's what Paul McGuinness, manager, would have you believe:

"The first week, we think it'll be very close to half a million, a little under," Paul McGuinness told Reuters, following a U2 radio broadcast at a Hollywood record label.
McGuinness, who has steered U2 for almost 31 years, said the sales decline was "a sign of the times" amid the recording industry's decadelong decline.

"And what people in this country don't realize is that the American industry is collapsing at a far quicker rate than in the rest of the world. In Europe, sales of physical material are holding up far better. They're in decline, but not as rapidly as in America."

Given that the record has also been doing sluggish business in the UK and Ireland, the response to this would seem to be "and?" - even if what he was saying was true.

Last June, Lil Wayne managed 900,000 in release week. Nine Inch Nails counted 700,000 first week transactions - some of which were free, admittedly. Coldplay did 721,000. The Jonas Brothers did over 700,000 sales. The Jonas Brothers, whose audience is the young, tech-savvy, download-heavy young folk who supposedly don't buy music but steal it as fast as they can cram it into their portable terabyte hard-drives.

Still, all those figures were in 2008. Perhaps things got really tough just after Christmas, eh, Bono?

This might also be worrying for U2, though, from today's Times:
Expectations are high for [Faryl Smith's] self-titled debut. The record has led the pre-sale charts on and 80,000 copies have been shipped to retailers in advance of going on sale — more than U2's latest album.

When people are more excited about someone off Piers Morgan Says Opportunity Knocks than a band who have effectively had the BBC handed to them for a week of promotional activity, you might want to think about adjusting your humility ratings.

Putin-attack axed from Eurovision

Having had a quick look through the rulebook, the European Broadcasting Union have decided to ask Georgia to rethink the Putin pisstake it had entered for this year's Eurovision.

We Don't Wanna Put In was judged to be political, and thus falling out the remit of the contest. If Georgia don't, literally, change their tune, they won't be allowed to take part.

In Russia, however, the population at large is more upset by the decision to invite a Ukranian to represent the mighty bear. Adding insult to injury, Anastasia Prikhodko has previously competed as a Ukranian and failed to make it past the heats. Maybe they swapped her for some gas or something; whatever the reason, the Russians are upset:

Inevitably, some Russians are upset at the Eurovision results. "A Ukrainian song will represent Russia in Eurovision!" complained Yana Rudkovskaya, producer of last year's winning Russian entry. "It's very strange. It's a shock. I fear we won't even make it into the top 10," she told newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

The producer for Valeriya, the losing finalist, was equally critical. "How can someone who lost ... in Ukraine, represent Russia?" snorted Yusif Prigozhin. "It's a disgrace."

It's not like they've parachuted Dustin The Turkey in. Although they might try that next year, come to think of it.

Darkness at 3AM: First with the news

This morning, the 3AMies bring intelligence from New York:

CAN U2 get any [sic]


Can U2 get any bigger?

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday temporarily renamed a block-long stretch of Manhattan's West 53rd Street in honour of the Irish rockers' new album.

We kid you not, the street will now be called U2 Way for a whole week.

U2 way over the top if you ask us...

A wonderful story - alright, it's not - and in no way undermined by being seven days out-of-date. Coming tomorrow: U2 to play secret gig on top of Broadcasting House.

Phish fans apparently do have more money than sense. A lot more.

Let's take this news from Hampton police unquestioningly, at face value. After all, the Daily Press has:

HAMPTON - Police confiscated $1.2 million worth of illegal drugs and more than $68,000 in cash from concertgoers arrested over three nights of Phish shows.

There were 194 concertgoers and others in the area of Hampton Coliseum charged with various misdemeanor and felony offenses — mostly possessing, using and selling drugs. Some faced multiple counts, for a total of 245 charges in all.

Of course they seized USD1.2million worth of drugs. If the police say that, then that's what they did. However ridiculous that figure might make the police sound.

Music industry bail-out blasted

There's quite a few people suggesting that the government should come up with a way of helping the record companies in their hour of need. Mostly, those people are from the music industry.

TechRadar has been talking to Andrew Dubber, who entertainingly trots through the arguments against changing the law, and slapping taxes on broadband, and generally allowing Guy Hands to dictate what's going to happen.

Dubber is part of New Music Strategies and (deep breath) Arts and Humanities Research Council Knowledge Transfer Fellow in Online Music and Radio Innovation and a Senior Lecturer in the Music Industries at Birmingham City University. So he knows what he's talking about:

One of those things is that the record companies aren't the music industry. "The music industry is a vast, diverse ecology with lots of different people doing different stuff, but the record companies have managed to persuade the mainstream media to call them the music industry - which is a bit like the lions demanding to be called the zoo," he laughs.

One of Dubber's main concerns is the sheer amount of stuff that you just can't hear anymore:
Dubber describes how, in 2006, he asked Universal Music - one of the world's biggest record labels - how much of their music was currently available for sale. The answer? Two percent. Ninety-eight percent of Universal's music was locked in a vault somewhere.

Things have improved in the last few years thanks to iTunes, but the amount of music available is still the tip of an iceberg. "There's no incentive for them to release it, because it's not popular enough to be commercially viable - and because there's no danger of them losing the rights to it, why bother hurrying? If it was out there and in the public domain, they could say, look, here it is. Use it, listen to it, love it, sample it, rework it, do what you like. But it's a massive store of our cultural heritage [that] is just locked away because it's commercially expedient for it not to be released."

It's an entertaining read - thanks to Russell C for bringing the piece to our attention.

Paris, to a man, mutters they preferred Stuart Sutcliffe

TMZ just can't believe it:

He's only a member of the biggest band like, ever, so how the hell can Paul McCartney walk around Paris and not have a single soul look his way -- let alone approach him for an autograph?

Could it be because, perhaps, Parisians are a hell of a lot cooler than TMZ?

Although if not a single soul looked their way, who took the long lens picture?

Gordon in the morning: When friends fall out

But, as with the pressure on Ruth’s bra, something had to give.

Yes, Gordon is incapable of even reporting some sort of falling out between Alexandra Burke and Ruth Lorenzo over something or other without making reference to busts.
A source said: “Alex and Ruth are big characters and the fireworks were spectacular when they finally went off."

Perhaps he should stick to reporting-through-decolletage.

Gordon not only reports the upset, but also swings by with some psychoanalysis about the falling-out:
It’s pretty clear to me what’s going on here.

Ruth is struggling to handle Alex’s success. Alex is beginning to enjoy the trappings of her fame and Ruth is slipping towards z-list obscurity, which will boil inside her like a dodgy curry.

Alex is probably beginning to wonder why she was ever pals with the singing Spaniard.

Both of them, you might notice, are hoofing round the provinces playing to half-interested roomfuls of ITV viewers; it's not like either of them are being courted to do a Diet Coke ad, is it?

It's been a while since we've heard from Kasabian, but it was inevitable their return would be marked first by excitement in Gordon's column. Inevitable:
MIGHTY BOOSH star NOEL FIELDING is poised to take his party pals KASABIAN on a journey through time and space for their next single — after agreeing to ‘Boosh up’ the band for their new video.

Is it just me, or does that sound like a total mismatch? Like serving cheeseburgers from a Victorian soup tureen?
Aided and abetted by his art college mate DAVE BROWN — BOLLO the DJing ape in the cult BBC show — Fielding is already creating a surreal world for SERGE PIZZORNO, TOM MEIGHAN et al.

Gordon does know the names of the others. No, really, he does. They hang out together and everything.
He is even tinkering with groundbreaking 3-D effects — which sounds perfect for the Leicester lads’ tunes.

Does it? Really? Because it'll add an extra two dimensions that the music doesn't offer, do you mean?

Monday, March 09, 2009

James Hetfield laid low by tummy ache

Metallica had to disappoint their Swedish fanbase (a group you'd assume has learned to live with disappointment) after James Hetfield was rushed to hospital with a belly ache.

The 16,000 fans who had trooped out to the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm were sent away:

"As you can clearly see, one of the members of Metallica isn't with us up here on stage tonight," Lars Ulrich told [the crowd]. "Unfortunately, I have to let you know that James has had a really, really bad day and he's on his way to the hospital right now."

As they headed back out to the car park, the crowd were able to console themselves that, at least, they hadn't had to sit through a Metallica concert.

Avast: Mounties take down "pirate"

Rajdeep Singh Ramgotra has been charged with copyright offences after "Canada's largest piracy raid":

The RCMP raided the Pembina Highway offices of Audiomaxxx the morning of March 5, 2008, where police seized about 100,000 pirated CDs and DVDs that were labelled and ready for shipment.

There's a video report - one of the few things remaining on YouTube - which claims:
the operation was burning over 11,000 discs a day, then distributing them in Canada, Europe, Central America and the Carribean.

Which seems odd for all sorts of reasons: why on earth would you bother shipping pirate CDs all round the planet - surely it would be cheaper to make the discs locally? And if they were doing 11,000 a day, and there were 100,000 discs waiting to be sent out, what sort of operation is this which only sends out once every ten days?

Perhaps these questions will all be answered in the trial. Or maybe all the numbers have been grossly inflated.

PRS kills goose, torches farm, ploughs salt into land

Well, thank you, PRS: An unrealistically high demand for royalties on videos shown on YouTube in the UK means that music videos are about to vanish from British PCs:

YouTube said today that after the expiry of its former deal, PRS had proposed new payment terms that would be financially prohibitive for the site and would require YouTube to pay out more than it makes from the ads next each video.

It also said that PRS would not agree to identify which artists and songs are covered by which licence, something essential for YouTube's content ID system to identify and reimburse rights holders for each song that is viewed.

"We value the creativity of musicians and song writers and have worked hard with rights-holders to generate significant online revenue for them and to respect copyright," said Google in a statement.

"But PRS is now asking us to pay many, many times more for our license than before. The costs are simply prohibitive for us - under PRS's proposed terms we would lose significant amounts of money with every playback."

This is further indication that the PRS might be the wrong people for the job of ensuring digital royalties get to artists. It seems they're incapable of understanding the value of music in the new age. In the same way that they seem to think it's going to be worth the while of small garages to pay hefty licence fees on the offchance customers might hear music leaking from the service bay, PRS is incapable of grasping the value of individual songs to Google. Hence, nobody gets anything.

For their part, the PRS is acting outraged:
PRS said in a statement that it is "outraged on behalf of consumers and songwriters that Google has chosen to close down access to music videos on YouTube in the UK".

But since when has the PRS ever given a flying hoof about consumers' interests? Because, fair enough, they're not there to represent them. They should be representing the interests of songwriters, though, and it's hard to see how anyone's interests are served by this move.

The PRS claims, by the way, that Google are fibbing:
PRS insists that Google has made this move because it wants to reduce the amount it pays in royalties, despite an increase in viewer numbers.

Does the PRS realise that all it's managed to do is shore up whatever unlicensed system picks up the business from disaffected YouTube viewers?

U2: Oh, they've got some scaffolding

Yesterday, you'll recall, The Edge was announcing that we'd never have seen anything like the summer U2 tour. But wouldn't got into details.

If only there was a gobby, couldn't-keep-a-secret-in-a-ziploc-bag, member of U2 who might spill the beans.

Hang on, who's that at the door?

Why, it's Mr. Bono. Hello, Mr. Bono, how goes the preparations for the 'seriously, we just want to hear Sunday Bloody Sunday' tour?

"I don't know if we're supposed to say this,

You're Bono. You're the head of the buildings-and-entertainment U2 conglomerate. You presumably don't have to clear things with the press office back in Rotterdam before you make a public utterance.
... but we have ... a way of playing outdoors like no one's ever played."

This is what The Edge told us, Bono. We know this. But what is new? What is the development? Do you have a way of bringing the very birds from the sky to sing backing vocals? Will the moon be lassoed each night, and tugged to earth, showing that The Man In The Moon himself is nodding gently along with The Sweetest Thing? What is new, Bono? We must know.
"Every tour you've ever been to outdoors, you just see a big stack of speakers on the left, a big stack of speakers on the right and then this little stage."

Y-e-s... are you going to put the stage on the top? Are you going to not use speakers, and instead have the sound springing from the ground itself?
Anyone you've ever seen outdoors [always sets up that same way], and why is that?"

Because nobody much cares about where the speakers are, given they're looking at the stage? And because only a halfwit would invest money trying to come up with a different way of arranging the speakers?
"The engineering is the way it is, 'cause unlike being at Madison Square Garden or an indoor venue, you can't hang things. We've sorted this out. We have some magic, and we've got some beautiful objects we're going to take around the world, and we're inside that object. We're hanging from that object, and it frees up those seats behind the stage. They may be the best seats."

Oh. So the big, exciting development is that U2 have found a way of using scaffolding to enable them to make a bit extra flogging some more seats near the stage. Hihterto, I've been cynical about this U2 tour, but surely my grandchildren will want to hear that I saw the very first gig where they managed to monetise the seats at the side front of the stage.

Rowntree pledges devotion to Blur

Last week, The Independent - the freesheet you get in the Toby Carvery - carried a story which suggested Dave Rowntree would quit Blur after the reunion dates, the better to carry on his legal career.

Surprisingly, Rowntree saw the report and has issued a response:

"I want to set the record straight following the bizarre and inaccurate piece in The Independent," he wrote on "As anyone who follows the band will know, we all have interests outside Blur.

"I am currently at law school, about to sit the exams for the first part of my training as a solicitor. I am fitting my studies around our preparation for the shows in the summer.

"I have one more year of academic training to complete, but if we decide to do more as Blur, I will obviously continue to fit my studies around the band and not the other way round. Whatever else I do, first and foremost I am a musician."

It's interesting and definitive - not entirely sure how I'd feel if I was instructing a solicitor to defend me only for him to wave a hand and say "look, you realise that if we get invited to go and record a Hootenanny for Jools Holland, you're on your own, right?", but good look with the studies, Dave.

How much for that doggy in the window?

There's something pleasing that Lita Roza, who had a number one with How Much is That Doggy In The Window, has left the bulk of her estate to animal charities.

[Related: Lita Roza obituary]

Twittergem: Sky Larkin

A new, occasional series lazily cutting-and-pasting Tweets like that's actually blogging ("highlighting some quality Twitter action you might have missed"):

is amused by how many bands/industry types I recognised in the queue for visas at the american embassy this morning, sxsw innit! Kx

From Sky Larkin

Pussycat Dolls: Live from the Danity Kane split

It's hard to remember why we're meant to even be aware of, much less worried about, the Danity Kane split. Thank god we've got some top-level insight into the whole affair from, erm, the Pussycat Dolls:

"We are sisters," PCD's Ashley Roberts said. "And there's moments where no matter who you are, you're going through personal things, as well as things in your career, and so sometimes your head's not in the right place or you're emotional about something, and we have times where we're going through stuff, as every human being does, but we try to not take it personally and to communicate. And about Danity Kane, it's a sad thing that they did fall apart.

Funnily enough, those were very, very similar to the words that Gorbachev used when the Soviet Union collapsed. Apart from Kazakhstan not running off to do Playboy as soon as things got bad.

Of course, Ashley Roberts knows that her perspective alone is not enough to explain all the stuff that happens in your things which might make your head be misplaced. Luckily, the Dolls have more expertise on which to call:
"You know, a couple of years ago, we were hanging out with U2, and I made friends with the Edge, and I talked to him like, 'Wow, you guys get along so well, and you're so successful,' and one of the things he sad was that envy is evil, and to make sure you understand your place in the group and understand that everyone has their own spot in the group. It fits like a puzzle," Doll Jessica Sutta said. "We've managed to have a lot of respect for each other, because we've built a sisterhood, and we love each other, and we know that when we're onstage, each one is as important as the next. You know? Nicole is our lead singer, we support her as she supports us ... we make it work."

The Edge's advice is, effectively, then 'keep your head down, know your place, don't go trying to knock the big man off his perch'. I wonder why The Edge would have come to conclusion that, you know, you shouldn't be trying to push yourself onto the leader's pedestal? Perhaps he picked that up watching the Cactus World News or something, can't be from experience, can it?

X Factor cleared

Ofcom has considered the complaints generated by the last season of the X Factor, including these:

1. they experienced problems getting through when attempting to vote and thus, they believed, some of the results were unfair. The highest volume of complaints of this nature related to editions broadcast on 1 and 8 November 2008, on which contestants Austin Drage and Laura White were eliminated respectively;
2. the number they dialled did not correspond with the message advising which contestant a vote had been recorded for;
3. during one particular recap of the voting numbers broadcast on 18 October 2008, the telephone number allocated to contestant Ruth Lorenzo was incorrect and as such, she may not have received all of the votes intended for her; and
4. contestant Diana Vickers was unable to perform in the contest on 8 November owing to illness and therefore automatically went through to the subsequent week. Some complainants thought this was unfair on the other contestants.

Channel TV - who, in a sleight of hand designed to minimise ITV's exposure to fines, do all the compliance - report that they can find no evidence of people being unable to get through:
In its response, the broadcaster included several examples of complainants who had contacted them claiming the automated message advising of their vote did not match the telephone number they had dialled. However, it transpired they had either misdialled or used the number allocated to the same contestant the previous week. (The contestants’ identifying final phone digits change from week to week.)

Aah. Things are so bad at ITV now, they're quite happy to defend themselves by pointing out that their audience is a bit dim. It's unclear if the phrase "look, they're voting for the X Factor, it's a miracle they can punch the keypad at all, much less get the numbers right" made it into the official submission to Ofcom, but the sense is there.

Ofcom pointed out that the decision to let Diana Vickers through fell, somewhat substantially, outside its remit:
Ofcom is not responsible for the design of ‘reality’ or talent shows. We will intervene in circumstances only where we consider viewers to have been misled or otherwise improperly disadvantaged.

Ofcom are, though, cool with viewers being disadvantaged in a proper manner.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: U2 sales improve incredibly overnight

You might remember yesterday that Gennaro Castaldo was busily trying to talk up underwhelming sales for No Line On The Horizon:

"It's doing pretty well, both in Ireland and the UK, at what is traditionally a relatively quiet time of year for music retail," says Gennaro Castaldo, HMV spokesperson. "The key thing about this album is that it will sell consistently throughout the year, especially when the band start performing live in the summer."

Pretty well; doing better as the year goes on. It's a quiet time.

I'll bet Gennaro will have something to say to the guy who's in the Telegraph today suggesting that sales are stellar:
"Sales of No Line On The Horizon have exceeded our already high expectations, and the album has sold exceptionally well on all its formats and across all channels – in store, online and via downloads."

Hey, dude, HMV's Baron Fact reckons it's only doing so-so, so who are you coming round here saying it's outperforming even sky-high expectations?
HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo

Yes, somehow Gennaro has managed to conjure an album which is only doing pretty well, considering the time of year, into an exceptional seller, outstripping expectations. Perhaps there were an awful, awful lot of people who bought it during the Sunday trading hours.

Gennaro was talking to the Telegraph as U2 were being added to some sort of list making them one of the five-biggest selling acts in Britain.
"U2 are one of the very few bands who can reach beyond their core fan base to connect with a much wider audience – both through their music and their personality, and their achievement in matching the Rolling Stones' record of 10 number one UK albums reaffirms their iconic status as the world's biggest Rock group."

Is any of that true, Gennaro? Isn't the problem that their new album is only talking to their fanbase? And can you even meaningfully compare ten number one albums in the 90s/00s with ten number one albums in the 60s/70s? Isn't that like comparing the scores from Countdown when it was a thirty minute programme with those now its 45 minutes, and concluding that the contestants must be smarter as they score more points?

Gordon in the morning: Starsailor delighted to avoid Glastonbury

Phew, that was lucky, eh, James Walsh? Starsailor have effectively swerved the risk of playing Glastonbury:

STARSAILOR’s JAMES WALSH is pleased his band won’t be playing.

The singer says the huge stars the festival attracts makes it harder for smaller acts to get noticed.

James says: “Glasto is about headliners. Smaller acts often don’t even get a mention.”

Yes, with the three BBC TV channels, two radio networks, about six online music services and acres of pop press coverage, year-in, year-out, it's almost impossible for anyone other than the headline acts to pick up any mention at all.

Meanwhile, the charity celebrity mountain climbers have made it to the top of Kilimanjaro for charity. Even Cheryl Cole:
Cheryl said: “It has been, without question, the single most mentally and physically challenging experience of my life.”

And you know what? I believe her.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Chris Brown: Turn your apology into a cash-cow

An eyecatching headline from the New York Daily News, eager to continue running the Rihanna-Brown story round the block some more:

Experts tell Chris Brown to sing 'sorry' song for Rihanna to save career

Experts? What experts?
Davia Temin, CEO of Temin and Co.

Ah, yes. There are people who are even more unsavoury than domestic abusers; those who would turn up and try and promote their PR company on the back of a woman being beaten up in a car park.

Given that Davia Temin thinks that offering unsolicited advice to an accused abuser is a neat-o way to promote her business, you might want to approach the rest of her advice with caution. Oh, and a pair of domestic-strength rubber gloves. And an Olympic-sized bargepole:
"Come up with a soulful song about what happened," said Davia Temin, CEO of Temin and Co. "I would use my fame to say, 'Look we are all human and make terrible mistakes.'"

We are all human, aren't we? We have all made mistakes. I'm just not sure that releasing a single about contrition - thereby turning your supposed guilt into a consumer item - isn't just adding to the long lists of terrible mistakes you've made?

Remember: this is a violent attack that left a woman badly beaten. And Davia Temin is suggesting you release a love song about it.
The idea, said Temin, "is to embrace the thing that hurt you the most and turn it into something positive."

Did Temin spend any time - any time at all - reading about domestic violence before she came up with this stuff?
If Brown "were a company," said Temin, "I would say, 'Start a foundation on nonviolent resolution to family squabbles.'"

If he was a dog, I would suggest he starts to help fish children out of wells. If Brown was a machine, retooling to make warning signs and protective clothing.

Seriously, Temin? You think that Brown setting up an organisation which plays to his all-too-public weaknesses would be the way to go? Sure, Betty Ford did well with her Clinic, but she did at least have the grace to dry herself out before offering herself up as some kind of expert at kicking addiction.
Brown, who is just 19, sings for a living, and he needs to understand that "coming back is possible," she said.

"You can come back from pretty much anything," said Temin. "Our country loves people who come back from the brink."

Yeah. Look at the way OJ was able to put that whole stabbing his wife and her lover thing to death behind him.
"The first thing he has to do is apologize again, sincerely," Temin said. "He needs to say, 'Look, I am so sorry any of this happened, that's not who I want to be. I take my role as a role model very seriously.'"

Chris Brown doesn't have a role as a role model. He's a man who appears to have beaten his girlfriend to a bloody pulp.

Is there anyone with a bit more understanding of the situation who might have some insight?
Marilyn Puder-York, a psychologist

Ah, a psychologist. Puder-York might have something a bit more worthwhile to say on the subject than a PR person.
"The fact that she [Rihanna] is standing by his side is significant," she said. "That she went back to him takes him off the hook a little."

Seriously? You're a psychologist, and your thought is that Rihanna going back is good for him, rather than bad for her?
Puder-York quickly added, "It does not excuse what happened."

"But for the public, it raises the question, 'Who am I to condemn him if the person he is accused of victimizing is not condemning him?'" she said.

You don't think the public might be more likely to think "why do so many women go back to the people who abuse them?"

Still, at least this is just a space-filling article in a newsletter. No real PR company would try and spin domestic violence into a career-saving publicity campaign, would they?
His handlers have denied a Chicago Sun-Times report that they have launched a career-saving campaign dubbed "Project Mea Culpa."