Saturday, January 23, 2010

IFPI decide to continue pursuing Oink

Having seen a massive pile of public cash be burned through investigating Oink, only for the case to end in no convictions, the IFPI has now decided to spend its own money instead.

John Kennedy is insisting the fight "will go on", although given that so far, "the fight" has been a publicly-funded legal process, what he means is that the fight will now start.

Kennedy said that the IFPI would consider civil proceedings against Ellis in order to recover the costs.

If they do win any money back, perhaps they might like consider passing it to the police to cover the money they wasted pursuing the case in the first place.

Midlake weekend: Young Bride

Continuing the Midlake weekend: Young Bride, off of The Trials Of Van Occupanther:

[Part of Midlake weekend]

MIDEM 2010: Labels unhappy with legal; want more money

It's MIDEM time again - when hundreds of music industry executives fly to expensive hotels in the South Of France to tell each other how poorly their industry is doing.

As is now traditional, the event has kicked off with MIDEM Net. PaidContent are there, reporting that labels are starting to get tired of legal services which pay them small, but regular sums:

Indeed, sitting next to Spotify’s [SVP Paul] Brown on stage in Cannes, Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG) digital biz dev SVP Stephen Bryan, suggested advertising returns from free are not enough to satisfy labels…

“We believe that the ad-supported services are most important in terms of aggregating an audience that can then be converted in to a premium service,” Bryan said. “We want to do more as a music company to make the paid services as attractive as they possibly can be relative to free options."

Warners, it seems, is worried that a legal-but-free service that is convenient and usable offers no reason to pay for a subscription.

That might be true. Spotify, to be fair, kind-of wish more people would pay for subscriptions as well:
"The real aim for us is to grow a real strong subscription service as well,” Brown acknowledged, perhaps keen to meet the label’s concern. “That’s becoming more of what Spotify is about.”

Spotify currently claims a quarter of a million subscribers out of a user base of seven million, which seems like pretty good going - but not good enough for Universal:
Universal Music Group’s international digital SVP last week said Spotify needs to convert 10 to 12 percent to make enough money to pay the record labels: “That to me equates to a sustainable business model.”

Hang about a moment, though: Spotify pay based on their users - so it might not be handing over as much money as the labels would hope for (labels always hope for more and more; they are corporations, after all) but it's not up to a supplier to tell a retailer where their sustainable business point is.

The trouble is, if you take the free services out of the marketplace - or, if you break them to a point where it's unpleasant or pointless to use them - you might very well increase the percentage of paid users against free users, but only because the user base will shrink. The free audience will just go elsewhere - and that means nobody will get paid anything. They don't learn, do they?

Metalobit: Leon Villalba and Tim Kennelly

Two members of After Death, Leon Villalba and Tim Kennelly, have drowned while on a trip to Brazil.

The band, which formed in 2005, was in the country supporting Master on tour. They'd been on the beach at Aracaju when Villalba got into difficulties. Kennelly tried to go into his aid, but he, too, was overwhelmed by the force of the waves. Other band members - and passers by - were unable to rescue either of the men.

Kennelly had joined the band last year, around the time of the release of their Eulogy EP.

Leon Villalba was 21; Tim Kennelly was 18.

Downloadable: Brian Jonestown Massacre

There's a new album from The Brian Jonestown Massacre out in about a month, Who Killed Sgt Pepper - the first since the return of Matt Hollywood.

What's it going to sound like? Like this: Lets Go Fucking Mental.

Leakobit: Alan Carton

Alan Carton, creator of the @diditleak Twitter service, died earlier this month.

Carton started tracking music industry leaks in 2007, and managed to keep himself anonymous to the end. He kept running the service even while being treated in hospital for the tumour which claimed his life, as his mother told Village Voice:

At the hospital, Carton saw the leak tips arriving on his phone and was clamoring for his laptop. "Oh my God! I gotta get on here, my followers will be wondering what I've got!" he said, according to his mother. He was admitted to the hospital on a Friday and was updating @diditleak by Sunday. "In the hospital, he always had his laptop with him and his cellphone," Jennifer remembers. "Alan would write while he was in bed. People write and say his 'company' was so cool. He said, 'Little do they know I'm just lying in the hospital here with cancer, just bored with nothing to do.'"

In the last 24 hours, the DidItLeak Twitter feed has resumed sending out updates, in part as a tribute to Carton's work.

Alan Carton died last Saturday. He was 23.

Midlake weekend: Bandits

Live in 2007, at Cornbury, Midlake doing Bandits:

[Part of Midlake weekend]

IFPI insults Spain to make some sort of point

The Guardian had a piece on its business pages yesterday allowing the major labels to bemoan their lot and demand something must be done. Again.

This bit was interesting, though:

While the IFPI noted some success in growing sales in countries with new legal measures, notably Sweden and South Korea, it launched a withering attack on governments it accused of turning a blind eye to piracy. Spain in particular came under fire for a "culture of state-tolerated apathy towards illegal file-sharing".

"Spain has the worst piracy problem of any major market in Europe. In 2009, no new Spanish artists featured in the top 50 album charts, compared to 10 in 2003," said Kennedy. "It's getting to the stage where it is nearly irreversible."

The IFPI said investment was drying up in new artists in Spain, and that sales of Spanish artists' albums fell by two-thirds over the last five years.

Rob Wells, head of digital at Universal Music Group International, underlined the falling investment story in a market that had traditionally exported much of its local repertoire to Latin America.

"Spain runs the risk of turning into a cultural desert," he said. "I think it's a real shame that people in authority don't see the damage being done."

I'm sorry, I should have warned you that your eyes might hurt after you've rubbed them to try and believe the arrogance of that statement.

Spain is running the risk of turning into a cultural desert, because the chart drawn up to reflect the business performance of one small part of one of the arts is being stuffed with material from overseas.

If you take 'what's local in the top fifty' as a measure of a nation's cultural vibrancy - a bit like trying to work out what's happening to the climate by checking a thermometer in a greenhouse - then wasn't the problem already bad when there was only one-fifth local acts in there? If it matters, wasn't that the point to act?

More to the point, if the IFPI really is worried that foreign music is despoiling Spanish culture, couldn't they just stop releasing their American acts in such large numbers? It's akin to someone pissing in the streets, and then complaining that there's a stench of ammonia.

And their main worry seems to be less that Spain is turning into a cultural wasteland anyway, and more that they won't have any material to flog off in Latin America. Did Rob Wells really think through a complaint that his company's flooding of one country's market was reducing the flow of material he wants to use to flood other countries with? If Spain was turning into a cultural desert, isn't that good news for Latin America's homegrown artists?

Downloadable: Byrne, Boy and Santigold

It feels a bit like turning up late at a meeting - you hear that the first fruits of that David Byrne and Fatboy Slim concept album about Imelda Marcos is available for sampling, and just nod and go "of course - the Marcos concept album. Of course."

Here's that sample:

They didn't call it Shoegazing, which is a disappointment.

[via @warriorgrrl]

Embed and breakfast man: Midlake

In a little over a week, there's going to be a new album from Midlake. Look, here's a trailer for it:

This seems like a fitting excuse to lob a load of Midlake videos onto the blog and call it a feature, right?

Forming just about the end of the last century in Texas, by students apparently on some sort of jazz course. Hence, the first version of the band did jazz-funk workouts under the title The Cornbread All-Stars.

Thank god they came to their senses, and started doing stuff like this instead. This is Roscoe:

Buy Midlake
The Courage Of Others - Download Courage
Trials Of Van Occupanther - Download Van Occupanther
Bamnan and Silvercork - Download Silvercork

More Midlake around the web
The Line Of Best Fit - Alice Wagstaff meets the band
Official site
Midlake on MySpace
Wikipedia on Midlake
Midlake on Last FM
Midlake on Spotify

More Midlake to come
Bandits live
Young Bride

Gordon in the morning: America won't take Dappy

Trouble as N-Dubz try to spin their fifteen minutes out by vanishing into an uncaring American market. Gordon reports this morning that Dappy can't get a visa for the US:

N-DUBZ star DAPPY has been a naughty boy in the past and it has caught up with the little fella now the band are due to meet big-hitting label bosses in New York.

It's curious - usually The Sun is pretty unforgiving about young people who've behaved violently trying to get special treatment, but Gordon seems quite forgiving about Dappy's conviction on two accounts of assault just over a year ago. Apparently spitting in someone's face is "being a naughty boy". Why, you might almost chuckle at it.

Gordon somehow types this with a straight face:
Dappy has had a bad run recently. Last week he sent offensive texts to a Radio 1 listener who laid into the band on air.

But he is growing up and deserves a chance to redeem himself by making a dent in the US chart.

He's grown as a person since, erm, sending death threats to a woman last week.

Friday, January 22, 2010

BPI suggests we'll be happy to pay for their copyright policing

A couple of weeks back, the ISPs attempted to fight proposals forcing them to police other companies' copyright on the grounds of the massive costs they'd (i.e. we'd) have to pay.

Well, the BPI wasn't going to take that laying down:

However, the BPI commissioned a report from technical consultancy Sweet Consulting, which shows that introducing measures to identify and notify copyright infringers would cost £13.85 million ($22.5 million) in the first year, £9 million ($14.6 million) in the second, and £3.45 million ($5.6 million) in the third. This is a long way from the £25 a year figure - as low as 24 pence (39 pence) per individual ISP subscriber when costs reach £3.45 million.

"Our evidence shows that ISPs are trying to pull off a massive con job on the British public with their back-of-fag-packet figures - the true costs to them of dealing with piracy will be a tiny fraction of their ridiculous guestimates.

"It's time for Britain's ISPs to stop spreading scare stories and face up to their responsibility to help tackle illegal filesharing."

That quote comes from the Billboard report and, presumably, is drawn from the BPI but they haven't actually said who at the BPI said it. Perhaps they were ashamed at trying to keep a straight-face when saying 'just because the ISPs know their business, why should we accept their estimates of costs - our figures from a consultant we've employed are much more likely to be correct'.

Sweet Consulting, by the way, don't only work for the BPI - they did work for Phorm as well.

So, let's just look at those figures, shall we? Interesting they decide to focus on how little per user it would cost in year three, isn't it? And why would the cost come down so sharply? Presumably because the BPI believes that by year three, all that nasty old illegal downloading will have disappeared in the face of three strikes letters. Unlikely, but let's take that as a real figure. Thing is, though, even on 2009 broadband account numbers, and ignoring the likelihood that commercial operations would also have to carry some of the costs, £3.45million divided 16.5million accounts actually comes out at closer to 20p than 25p. Do the BPI's consultants not know how many people are online, or were they deliberately trying to make the costs seem 25% greater?

I suppose that 20pence might not sound much. Reasonable, even. Until you remember that this is everyone being made to pay to police the copyrights held by a handful of mainly overseas corporations. It's like saying "who could possibly object to only paying 12p a year in order for staff at Deloitte to have cream cakes every day?" It's not very much, but why should everyone be paying it?

This isn't money going to artists, or even to people who've got artists to sign their copyrights over to them. It's not even money going to the labels. That money they've still got to start issuing demands for.

Downloadable: Massive Attack

With Horace Andy doing the vocals, and Jo Whiley ever ready to express surprise that an indie band might like a dance music act like Massive Attack, She Is Danger (Remix) for the downloading free from RCD LBL.

[Thankings to Michael M]

Bernard Butler not bothered at missing reunion

Bernard Butler seems to have assumed that people are talking about his non-appearance as part of the Suede reunion because they're stirring. It's not, it's just disappointment that the Suede reforming are the rather-good second XI in place of the original and best.

Either way, Bernard's still not going:

"It's a shame for them that my name gets dragged into it to try and stir something up, he said.

"The honest answer is that I haven't been asked to do it. I saw Brett the other night socially and it's not really something we're going to go on about. So, it's all in people's fantasies and imaginations really."

Given that Bernard had fairly solidly ruled out a Suede reunion not long ago, perhaps it's not surprising that he was invited.

You wonder how long the list of 'things not bought up when Brett & Bernard meet socially' is now, don't you?

Helping Haiti: Damon offers a tune

Let's just absorb the announcement this morning that Simon Cowell's Downing Street-mandated Haiti single will feature JLS and Leona Lewis struggling against REM's Everybody Hurts (because if you've got a building fallen on your head, being told that everyone gets a bit upset at times will make you feel so much better).

Absorbed that? We're building a machine in our back garden that will measure just how toxic an idea has to get before the "it's for charity" goodwill protective cover rips to shreds.

A more interesting way to raise funds - albeit one that won't raise quite so much - comes from Damon Albarn, auctioning off a song. Yes, if you win the auction, he'll write a song all about.

Current bids stand at £770, which is a lot less than it cost Justine Frischmann - but she did get a whole album's worth.

Gordon in the morning: Christine Bleakley catapults to hero status

Gordon Smart is in no doubt what the most important showbiz story is this morning:

Christine Bleakley makes rude jibe to Jedward

No! Surely not! Whoever thought we might have to respect Christine Bleakley?

Apparently, though, this is no snickering matter. Gordon is cross:
[B]ehind the pretty face there is a far less attractive side to the TV star.

It's true. If you ripped her face off, there'd be a less-attractive mixture of muscles and blood and... oh, you were being metaphorical.
Christine delivered a horribly cutting remark to harmless JEDWARD backstage at the National TV Awards on Wednesday night.

It's like kicking a kitten. Apart from kittens being lovable and cute.

So, steel yourselves: what was this remark, so cutting and horrible, that Bleakley apparently jibed out at Jedward?
The presenter, from Belfast, launched a Scud missile into the likeable pair just before they went on stage to perform their new single Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby).

Yes, yes, yes. But what was it?
Christine hissed: "You paint a bad picture of Ireland."

Yes, yes, yes. But what was the devastating scud missile cruel rudery rema... Oh. That was it?

I was hoping for something like "even combined, the pair of you barely contain enough DNA to make a crab" or "you're like a Doctor Seuss book brought to life - and that was shit enough when Mike Myers did it" or "is there actually a punchline to you, or are we just waiting for someone to arrive with the minibus to take you home?"

Still, let's not underestimate the hurt this mild rebuke might of caused. It was done in front of people:
There was a team of people nearby, including the twins' make-up artist, who heard what she said.

Oh noes - not mildly ticking them off in front of their own make-up artist? Oh, the humanity. (Actually, why didn't Christine take the opportunity to have a go at their make-up artist as well - the twins can't help it, but the make-up artist is choosing to send them out like that.)

Given that there isn't really much to say here, we're done, right Gordon?
I'm guessing that what Christine means is they could be accused of reinforcing the hateful old stereotype of the Irish as being a bit daft - which led to nasty Irish jokes some years ago.

Oh. We're not done. Seriously, Gordon? You've parsed Bleakley's line and decided that she was somehow trying to fuel an outdated national stereotype? Isn't it possible to say, for example, "you are an insult to journalism" without meaning "I think people should make cruel jokes about proper journalists"?

It's a bit of an extreme leap, even for a man trying to justify running a lame piece of backstage gossip as a big splash. It's even odder to find the Sun suddenly deciding that it doesn't like Irish jokes after all - in the past, objecting to those was described as 'bullying' and while cracking Irish gags was a fun way of relaxing for celebrities. Now Gordon and the paper decide they don't like Irish jokes after all? Politically correctness really has gone mad.
Everyone wants their nation to be portrayed in a good light. But in my book Jedward are just two entertaining young lads who wouldn't wish to offend anyone.

And, to the best of my knowledge, they are national treasures in Ireland.

It's not entirely clear how far Gordon's knowledge runs in this area. He ends with a Rodney King style plea:
They put smiles on a lot of people's faces.

How bad can that be?

Do they put smiles on people's faces, though? Aren't they - at best - making people smirk?

Spice Girls get to that stage

I suppose it was only a matter of time - Judy Craymer, who invented the pro-celebrity karaoke which was Mamma Mia, and Simon Fuller, the cheap knee-high boot stamping on the face of humanity forever, are coming together:

A stage production based on the Spice Girls and their music is being created by Mamma Mia! producer Judy Craymer, Simon Fuller has announced.

This is the sort of work the devil makes for idle hands.

You can't fault the logic, as the Spice Girls audience starts to shade into that period of their lives when a night out sounds more attractive if they do the sitting down and someone else does the dancing.

"This is a fairly harmless, if pointless, piece of fluff we can charge people for," Fuller told the press conference.

"Sure. I mean, even if it only runs for five days, that'll be five times longer than I'm going to have to spend slapping a few pre-written tunes into a creaky dramatic framework," agreed Craymer. "I mean, it's not like I'm Ben Elton or anything."

Oh, alright. Here's what they actually signed-off in advance:
"What Judy has achieved with her all-conquering box office smash hit Mamma Mia! and what the Spice Girls created with their powerful record-breaking mix of girl power and hit songs, has influenced pop culture more than anyone can imagine," Fuller added.

Well, he's got a point. It's why so many people spend time sobbing and sobbing when they think about popular culture.

Seriously: if you were trying to sell yourself, would you really stand up and say "between us, we're responsible for Girls Can't Catch, JLS, Tonight I'm Yours: The Rod Stewart Musical and Soapstar Superstar"? It's an act of brave honesty on a par with when Miles out of This Life told everyone he'd caused the blackout in Flash Forward.
Craymer said she planned to "create a unique celebration of the band and its music, with its own flavour and joyful message".

She added: "It is important to me that the excitement, style and humour of the Spice Girls is well represented on stage."

Yes, that's very important. Very, very important. What would the musical be without capturing the spirit of Geri Halliwell hectoring Mel C into an eating disorder?

The UK government has said it is aware of the threat, but stresses as a matter of policy it does not negotiate with terrorists.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Indie guitar routed, says chart company

For reasons that aren't immediately apparent, the official chart company has decided to tell indie rock that it isn't good enough:

"2009 was the toughest year of the Noughties as far as independent guitar music was concerned," said the [Official Chart C]ompany's managing director Martin Talbot.

"We're going through that period where guitar music and electronic-driven pop music is winning through over guitar bands."

Goodness. That sounds like something that might even be worth trying to interest journalists in as if it was some sort of trend. Well, almost. I suppose if your job involved compiling lists of what records were selling slightly more copies than other records, you'd have to be able to come up with some sort of fact that doing all that compiling might reveal. However banal it might be.

But can Talbot explain what is almost certainly just a cyclical change?
Talbot knows exactly were the blame lies. He said, "You only have to look at the charts over the past 12 months to see we're going through a real period in resurgence for pop music.

"The biggest stars of the last 12 months have been the likes of Lady Gaga and Pixie Lott. Dizzee Rascal having three number ones in a year. I can't see that changing over the next 12 months either."

So, Talbot's explanation for pop doing better than guitars is that... pop is doing better than guitars. Watch out, Gennaro, somebody is after your crown for chart commentary.

Hang about, though, Martin - are you sure that it won't change for the next twelve months?
"It's about trends and movements. Sometimes movements can be sparked by one act coming out of nowhere and doing something different to what everyone else is at that particular point in time."

Well, yes, a movement would require someone doing something different for it to start, wouldn't it? If you came along doing the same thing as everybody else, you wouldn't really be in a position to start a movement.

In summary, then: Indie-style guitar rock is now selling relatively less well than other types of music, because other types of music are selling more strongly. It's unlikely that anything will change that in the foreseeable future, unless something happens to make it change.

I only hope that the newspapers haven't yet sent their front pages to print.

Linkin Park: Ooh, check out their new direction

Yesterday, we had the prospect of Blink 182 telling us how their new comeback album won't be like anything we'd expect of them. This week's NME has My Chemical Romance saying a similar thing.

Clearly, pretending that you're taking on a whole new musical direction is the new grinding group-think flocking point in rock circles. For here now are Linkin Park saying, yes, much the same thing:

"We make records as a challenge to ourselves," Shinoda smiled. "And the challenge this time is: 'Nobody else is making a record that sounds like this, only we can do it.' "

I suppose if you're going to set yourself a challenge, you might as well make something that's going to give you a stretch. On past experience of Linkin Park records, they'll earn half a point - not making a record nobody else could, but certainly one nobody would ever want to make again.

Mike Shinoda is convinced it's a thing all of its own, though:
"It's been going great, I feel like it's an entirely different process and an entirely different style of music than anything we've done before. It's hard to place. People keep asking me, 'What does it sound like?' and it's hard to describe. When people hear it, they're going to have a tough time saying that it falls into a category."

Even so, if you run a record shop, I think you'd be safe enough making space in the 'pubescent rock' section for the record.

Seriously, though, where do Linkin Park find people who still want to listen to them this far in to the new century? Seriously?
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd asked Prince William what music he liked.

The prince replied, "Mine's very varied - I like rock, Linkin Park ... Kanye West. I normally get the piss taken out of me, for my choice of music".

That would make sense.

Bi-ly Minogue

It's probably getting on for twenty years since - at the peak of her IndieKylie years - Kylie Minogue was interviewed by Bobby Gillespie for Select and announced she was trisexual. As in try anything once. It was a bit more original back then.

So it's not entirely clear why everyone is acting all surprised at her latest, similar mutterings:

"I have been attracted to some women."

"I am a sexual exhibitionist and part of me is a natural flirt. Although I have been attracted to women, I have never done anything with them."

It's worth noting that this is an interview with the Spanish language magazine Max Mexico. You might wonder if it has lost a little something in translation, if not about the veracity of the original quote.

Twittergem: Cripesonfriday

Thanks to @blockbusterbuzz for the anti-cynical view of the Cowell charity single from cripesonfriday:

Cynicism be damned, if it raises money for Haiti, I don't care if Cowell & Bono release a "2 twats one cup" video

I hear Gordon Brown reaching for the phone even as we speak.

Talking of Haiti, and Twitter, and charity, this for Sky Larkin:
WORD UP MUSOS - you can donate to Haiti through your iTunes account, it's on the store front page. So easy. go go go. Katie x

Haiti: UK Radio industry decides it has done enough

Radio Today floated an idea earlier in the week suggesting that the earthquake in Haiti might warrant a repeat of the UK Radio Aid campaign, when commercial radio stations came together to raise funds to help out with the Boxing Day Tsunami relief effort.

It didn't take long for the idea to be dumped on. Radio Today reports:

an email to Justin [Kings, who wrote the original article] from Jonathan Richards, who is the Group News Editor and Programme Director of LBC, says: "Whilst we appreciate the sentiment of your Radio Today article the idea is not something we feel is appropriate at this time.

"All Global Radio brands are proud to be playing a full role in supporting the DEC appeal, and, in our view this is the correct way to proceed in terms of co-ordinating the fund raising efforts of UK commercial radio stations. Our news bulletins have covered the Haiti story extensively (and continue to do so). In line with other UK commercial radio stations Global brands including LBC 97.3 and 95.8 Capital FM are broadcasting the DEC appeal commercials. As you are probably aware the DEC campaign is already the most successful since their tsunami appeal five years ago."

That might seem to be a little mean-spirited - it's not quite 'we've mentioned the earthquake on the news, what more do you want us to do?' but certainly heading in that direction.

The reference to the DEC ads and appeal as a reason for inaction is puzzling - yes, DEC have raised more than in any appeal since the tsunami. But they'd raised more for tsunami victims - which was when the last Radio Aid happened.

The real difference, you have to conclude, is that there are fewer radio companies around now. Back in 2005, there were more groups, and presumably the sense of not wanting to be the group that said 'no' persuaded people to say yes. Now, with great swathes of the country dominated by Global, there's less of that competitive push to do the right thing.

Still, they'll be sure to report on the money other people are donating on the news. Let's not lose sight of that.

Gordon in the morning: Simon Cowell gets going

It's going to go to charity, which is good, but reading about The Sun's Haiti charity single you might think that the effort was aimed at proving how well-connected Simon Cowell is:

Simon, 50, has already played a key role in negotiating a deal with Prime Minister GORDON BROWN for the VAT to be waived on all sales of the track.
Simon said they will have to move fast to produce the single here and in the US.

He said last night: "I wanted to do something for Haiti so when I had calls from The Sun and the Prime Minister asking if I would get involved I agreed immediately.

"We are going to do a single. We only made the decision today.

"I have got to get it together in 48 hours."

I'm a little cloudy on the details here - Cowell really wanted to do something to help Haiti but was still hanging around yesterday morning not doing anything? He negotiated a VAT waiver (which is actually going to be a payment equivalent to the amount of VAT, surely?) with Gordon Brown - but Brown asked him to get inolved with The Sun record in the first place? Doesn't that make Brown a bit more key in the process than Cowell is?

So, here we are again: a charity single. And it'll raise cash, which is good. But surely if Cowell is so influential, and the Sun and Brown involved, somebody could have come up with something a bit more inventive than yet another retread of Band Aid?

With all Cowell's connections, how about getting two or three artists on each of the larger labels together to pledge their current singles' earnings to the appeal? Actually, if Cowell has the influence, why not get that to be a pledge for the money raised from just one track by a slew of acts to channel funds to Haiti until the copyright rules out? I'm sure Girls Aloud could spare, say, any future earnings from Biology, or McCartney would be able to squeak by without the cash he'd be making from Waterfalls.

Everybody would be a winner - we'd not have to smile weakly at an awful, rushed, group singalong; people could buy songs they actually like to help the charity; and, by signing over earnings from the track, Haiti would get a fund which would be delivering cash for years to come to, helping with the work that's going to be needed to try and return to normal.

Set against such a possibility, doesn't a singalong single seem a very small use of Cowell's powers?

Wayne Coyne takes a bath

An email from Ginsoakedboy promises "possibly the greatest music story of the year".

And he could well be right: Google Street View has managed to catch Wayne Coyne taking a bath. In the street:

The image of Coyne [...] shows the singer sat in the bath next to a banner saying "blob in the bath"

It's actually possible, knowing Coyne, that this isn't an attention-grabbing stunt arranged with prior knowledge of the routes and timings of the Street View car.

Indeed, it might even be likely:
Fans on The Flaming Lips' official forum verified that it was Coyne in the photo, citing the fact that he had previously posted video footage of the same bath on the band's MySpace page,, along with several pictures of it.

According to notes on the MySpace page, the bath was set up by Coyne and his wife Michelle for a Halloween party in 2007.

Still, it would be nicer to think he heard the sound of Google coming and rushed out to take an extra dip. Much more appealing than the people of Broughton gathering to rail at the car. Indeed, if you really wanted to stop Google photographing the world, warning them there's a risk that wherever they go they might catch a naked Coyne abluting might do the job better than forming a human chain.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ok Go not Ok with the no-go

Ok Go aren't a band made by YouTube, but without the Googley video service and that mucking about on treadmills video, it's pretty certain they'd be back working as doctors or dressage experts now. They were a band saved by people sharing their video online.

So it's especially interesting that EMI are, erm, stopping fans sharing their videos online. The band aren't happy. Not to the point where they're going to stand up to EMI, but they're going to grumble quite loudly:

This week we released a new album, and it’s our best yet. We also released a new video – the second for this record – for a song called This Too Shall Pass, and you can watch it here. We hope you'll like it and comment on it and pass the link along to your friends and do that wonderful thing that that you do when you’re fond of something, share it. We want you to stick it on your web page, post it on your wall, and embed it everywhere you can think of.

Unfortunately, as of now you can’t embed diddlycrap. And depending on where you are in the world, you might not even be able to watch it.

We’ve been flooded with complaints recently because our YouTube videos can't be embedded on websites, and in certain countries can't be seen at all. And we want you to know: we hear you, and we’re sorry. We wish there was something we could do. Believe us, we want you to pass our videos around more than you do, but, crazy as it may seem, it’s now far harder for bands to make videos accessible online than it was four years ago.

Yes... it's now harder than ever before. In, erm, some way.

What they mean is, it's harder for mainstream major label acts.
See, here’s the deal. The recordings and the videos we make are owned by a record label, EMI. The label fronts the money for us to make recordings – for this album they paid for us to spend a few months with one of the world’s best producers in a converted barn in Amish country wringing our souls and playing tympani and twiddling knobs – and they put up most of the cash that it takes to distribute and promote our albums, including the costs of pressing CDs, advertising, and making videos. We make our videos ourselves, and we keep them dirt cheap, but still, it all adds up, and it adds up to a great deal more than we have in our bank account, which is why we have a record label in the first place.

Fifteen years ago, when the terms of contracts like ours were dreamt up, a major label could record two cats fighting in a bag and three months later they'd have a hit. No more. People of the world, there has been a revolution. You no longer give a shit what major labels want you to listen to (good job, world!), and you no longer spend money actually buying the music you listen to (perhaps not so good job, world). So the money that used to flow through the music business has slowed to a trickle, and every label, large or small, is scrambling to catch every last drop. You can't blame them; they need new shoes, just like everybody else. And musicians need them to survive so we can use them as banks. Even bands like us who do most of our own promotion still need them to write checks every once in a while.

EMI - by no means the most successful of the major labels - reported over a billion pounds of revenue in the Financial Year 2009. If a billion quid is a trickle, you'd hate to see what Ok Go would consider a gush.
But where are they gonna find money if no one buys music? One target is radio stations (there's lots of articles out there. here's one: ). And another is our friend The Internutz. As you’ve no doubt noticed, sites like YouTube, MySpace, and run ads on copyrighted content. Back when Young MC's second album (the one that didn't have Bust A Move on it) could go Gold without a second thought, labels would’ve considered these sites primarily promotional partners like they did with MTV, but times have changed. The labels are hurting and they need every penny they can find, so they’ve demanded a piece of the action. They got all huffy a couple years ago and threatened all sorts of legal terror and eventually all four majors struck deals with YouTube which pay them tiny, tiny sums of money every time one of their videos gets played. Seems like a fair enough solution, right? YouTube gets to keep the content, and the labels get some income.

It's like waiting for Stephen Baldwin to get to the point.
The catch: the software that pays out those tiny sums doesn’t pay if a video is embedded. This means our label doesn’t get their hard-won share of the pie if our video is played on your blog, so (surprise, surprise) they won’t let us be on your blog. And, voilá: four years after we posted our first homemade videos to YouTube and they spread across the globe faster than swine flu, making our bassist’s glasses recognizable to 70-year-olds in Wichita and 5-year-olds in Seoul and eventually turning a tidy little profit for EMI, we’re – unbelievably – stuck in the position of arguing with our own label about the merits of having our videos be easily shared. It’s like the world has gone backwards.

It seems a bit strange that Google can't track embedded plays - after all, the video is still being pulled from Google's servers, so it's not like there's any obvious technical bar - is there?
Let’s take a wider view for a second. What we’re really talking about here is the shift in the way we think about music. We’re stuck between two worlds: the world of ten years ago, where music was privately owned in discreet little chunks (CDs), and a new one that seems to be emerging, where music is universally publicly accessible. The thing is, only one of these worlds has a (somewhat) stable system in place for funding music and all of its associated nuts-and-bolts logistics, and, even if it were possible, none of us would willingly return to that world. Aside from the smug assholes who ran labels, who’d want a system where a handful of corporate overlords shove crap down our throats? All the same, if music is going to be more than a hobby, someone, literally, has to pay the piper. So we’ve got this ridiculous situation where the machinery of the old system is frantically trying to contort and reshape and rewire itself to run without actually selling music. It’s like a car trying to figure out how to run without gas, or a fish trying to learn to breath air.

This, of course, falls in to the trap of believing that all music was on CD ten years ago; most music was never recorded ten years ago. Ok Go could have considered whether the problem is not about paying pipers, but supporting a bureaucracy designed to distribute physical music and promote it through old channels in a world that isn't like that any more. The music industry isn't like a car trying to run without gas, it's an SUV trying to work out how to drive down a cycle lane.
So what’s there to do? On the macro level, well, who the hell knows? There are a lot of interesting ideas out there, but this is not the place to get into them. As for our specific roadblock with the video embedding, the obvious solution is for YouTube to work out its software so it allow labels to monetize their videos, wherever on the Internet or the globe they're being accessed. That'll surely happen before too long because there's plenty of money to be made, but it’s more complicated than it looks at first glance. Advertisers aren’t too keen on paying for ads when they don’t know where the ads will appear (“Dear users of, try Gerber’s new low-lactose formula!”), so there are a lot of hurdles to get over.

Well, yes, that can be difficult.
In the meantime, the only thing OK Go can do is to upload our videos to sites that allow for embedding, like MySpace and Vimeo. We do that already, but it stings a little. Not only does it cannibalize our own numbers (it tends to do our business more good to get 40 million hits on one site than 1 million hits on 40 sites), but, as you can imagine, we feel a lot of allegiance to the fine people at YouTube. They’ve been good to us, and what they want is what we want: lots of people to see our videos. When push comes to shove, however, we like our fans more, which is why you can take the code at the bottom of this email and embed the "This Too Shall Pass" video all over the Internet.

So, having made a plea for understanding EMI's position, the band then undermine it. Which doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense. Either they believe that EMI has to be tight with the embed code, or they don't. Which is it?
With or without this embedding problem, we'll never get 50 zillion views on a YouTube video again. That moment – the dawn of internet video – is gone. The internet isn’t as anarchic as it was then. Now there are Madison Avenue firms that specialize in “viral marketing” and the success of our videos is now taught in business school. But here's a secret: zillions of hits was never the point. We're a rock band, and it’s a great gig. Not just because we get to snort drugs off the Queen of England (we do), but because the only thing we are expected to do is make cool stuff. We chase our craziest ideas for a living, and if sharing those ideas takes 40 websites instead of one, it doesn’t make too big a difference to us.

You won't get mass views any more? What about Susan Boyle, who churned up millions and millions of views (unofficially, because ITV bungled it) or the surprised kitten?
So, for now, here's the bottom line: EMI won't let us let you embed our YouTube videos. It's a decision that bums us out. We've argued with them a lot about it, but we also understand why they're doing it. They’re aware that their rules make it harder for people to watch and share our videos, but, while our duty is to our music and our fans, theirs is to their shareholders, and they believe they’re doing the right thing.

So, Ok Go end up doing the right thing by their fans, but while seeing the point of their label paymasters. Did I suggest they might have been doctors? Surely, had the music business shunned them, they'd have been snapped up by the diplomatic corps.

Grammys 2010: Michael Jackson in 3D

The first Grammys since the death of Michael Jackson. Probably be fair to mark the passing of the man - he bought a lot of thick carpet for music industry offices. But how to pay tribute?

You don't want it to be anything tacky, or trashy, or cheap, or gimmicky, would you?

Hang on, you say you have an idea?

Grammys will stage 3-D tribute to Michael Jackson

Well, I suppose at least we can stand the MiniPops down.

The audience will be treated - and I use that word as a curse - to Jackson doing Earth Song in three dimensions. It'll be almost as if the music industry hadn't killed him.

Them Crooked Vultures apparently had quality control

Tucked away in a recent Mail interview with Paul McCartney was this revelation:

'We went out for a bite to eat afterwards and Dave told me he was starting this band with Josh. I asked him who was playing bass and he rather sheepishly told me he'd approached John. So you read it here first; Paul McCartney was nearly the bass player in Them Crooked Vultures."

Yeah, but can you imagine if he had? It would have turned into some sort of sideshow, packed full of chums, rather than... I thought I had a point, but it turns out I might not.

Amy Winehouse: Oh, yes, I did

Amy Winehouse has been fined £85 costs and ordered to pay £100 in compensation after she assaulted Milton Keynes Theatre Manager Richard Pound during the interval of a pantomime shortly before Christmas.

More worryingly for her team, she's also been given a two year conditional discharge, which means she's going to have to keep her nose clean virtually up to the London Olympics:

district judge Peter Crabtree told Winehouse: "It may be harder than a fine because you have now got to stay on the straight and narrow for the next two years."

Good luck with that, Amy. For some reason, I'm humming the Village People's You Can't Stop The Music at the moment.

Blink 182: Who can imagine what the new record will sound like?

Blink 182 are, lest we live in any prelapsarian fantasy, busily recording their first album in six years. That makes it sound like we're in for a treat, doesn't it?

Tom DeLonge [told a film crew] "No one really knows what to expect from the next Blink record, [but] I don't think anyone thinks it's going to be a straightforward rock record. ... [It's] probably the most ambitious songwriting and art that we've ever made."

Actually, Tom: I think most people do know what to expect from a new Blink 182 record. A gentle sinking feeling. Men on the cusp of Middle Age pretending that they're actually teenagers. A straightforward rock record buried underneath as much noodling as the record company is prepared to stand.

But then, you say "it's the most ambitious art we've ever made" - and let's not laugh here, shall we, for all by-products of a culture are art, even if the art is little more than sticking two egg-box cups on a toilet roll tube, painting it bright blue and calling it a dragon.

Can teenage rebellion pay the mortgage? That's a question for Mr Durst.

Bookmarks - Internet stuff: Celebrity Rehab

Juliana Hatfield watches Celebrity Rehab, freeing up time for the rest of us to just sob silently to ourselves. This was Heidi Fleiss' last TV work before she went in to Celebrity Big Brother. But, obviously, there were others:

Mike Starr is the former bass player of Alice In Chains. He’s a “hardcore polydrug addict” in the words of Dr. Drew. When asked the inevitable — does he have any history of trauma — Mike tells the doc, “Yeah — trauma from losing my band.”

Being fired from Alice In Chains? Trauma?

“I was the best bass player/entertainer there was.”

Really, Mike Starr? Really? I never even knew the guy’s name (or face) until I turned on the TV to watch this show. I think part of Mike’s problem is that he has a little bit of a skewed perspective on himself and where he fits into the world and history.

Gordon in the morning: Raging bull

Whoever would have known that Martin Scorsese loves Leona Lewis, apparently:

A source said: "Leona couldn't believe it when Martin sought her out at the awards.

"He was charm personified and told her he listens to Bleeding Love every single day when he goes out jogging.

"He said he thinks it's an utterly terrific track and really gets his blood pumping."

Really? Jogging to Bleedin' Love? He can't go very fast, can he?

I'm not sure this story is quite as flattering as whoever gave it to The Sun might think, anyway - isn't on a par with someone going up to Scorsese and saying "I really love Mean Streets. You should think about making some more films."

Anna Friel went out wearing a punk shirt (or, rather, a shirt with 'punk' on it) last night, prompting this headline:

Annar Fail.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tour dates: Kathryn Williams

Interesting - it looks like there's going to be quite a heft of promotional weight behind Kathryn Williams' new album, her first for One Little Indian. The record, The Quickening, is out on February 22nd. There are, as promised, tour dates:


Embed and breakfast man: Vivian Girls

Currently on tour around the UK, Vivian Girls have started to do an acoustic version of He's Gone.

I'd like to see that. Wouldn't you?

That's low-light, last-night, in the Liverpool Korova, and filmed on an iPhone. So, yes, we'd still like to actual see it. But it sounds great.

You, too, can have your song in Rock Band

We can't all wait for our widow to sign papers to make a mis-shapen version of our heads appear in a computer game, but there's good news if you're desperate to be part of the Rock Band world. MTV is planning to allow people to upload their own music to the game.

The idea is simple enough: Rock Band gets boring quite quickly when you've only got a limited number of tunes. But developing new songs is costly, and doesn't actually make any new money for the franchise.

Solution: Invite people to upload their own songs. The catch?

It's that bit about it being costly to make the Rock Band version of a tune:

Rather than deal with Harmonix directly, artists and labels will submit songs to a community of Harmonix-trained freelance game developers and other interested programmers who will prepare the tracks for "Rock Band." Additionally, labels can either hire trained developers or school their existing employees to do the work in-house.

Spong calculate the cost of doing this conversion is about $500 a minute. Now, the resulting songs will be sold, but between 50cents and $3 dollars, from which the person making the tracks will make just 30%.

Larger bands, then, might manage to turn a profit, but smaller acts? Not much. It might look to an outsider that MTV is trying to expand the playability of its game but at other people's expense. Certainly, only they are guaranteed to be making money on the deal.

Embed and breakfast man: Tiesto with Tegan And Sara

Why, yes, we would probably describe ourselves as being in thrall to everything that Tegan And Sara does. Yes.

But then, they do some special things. Look at this, for instance - they've teamed up with Tiesto:

Feel It In My Bones. This is the sort of collaboration they dream of for the Brits, only they have to restrict themselves to bands who have been in the top 20 which, for now, rules this sort of thing out. Pity.

Folkobit: Kate McGarrigle

Kate McGarrigle, folk singer, has died.

Kate's journey to folk music was a twisted one - she studied engineering at McGill University, while the sisters were taught music originally by local nuns. McGarrigle married Loudon Wainwright III - a marriage which ended in disappointment. It did, however, bring two children, both who have followed their parents into making unexpected-but-powerful music just off the mainstream.

Kate And Annie McGarrigle's first, self-titled album, came in 1975 - they'd started making music together in New York, where Kate and Loudon had almost-settled following the birth of Rufus. The sisters performed their hearts out in New York, but it was the songs they started to circulate to other artists which would land them a record deal. Warners were impressed with a track they'd written which had been picked up by Linda Rondstadt and offered a recording contract.

Between 1975 and 1982 the pair released a series of albums, but - never ones obsessed with the demands of the music industry - their workrate slowed a lot after this; each occasional album welcomed and a thing of beauty, but starting another long wait for the follow-up. Their last, The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, came out for the 2005 holidays.

Kate McGarrigle has been living with cancer for a number of years; it finally claimed her life yesterday. Kate McGarrigle was 63.

This is Kate and Annie McGarrigle (and friends) covering Hard Times Come Again No More:

Melody Maker: Don't call it a comeback

Ten years on from the sudden closure of Melody Maker, IPC have announced a revival.

It turns out the motivation is less a desire to bring back a cherished brand, and more about protecting the name. A Spanish company, Nice Fashion & Music SL, had been trying to register Melody Maker as its own brand name. IPC objected, telling an IPO Judge that they're busily working on building a digital archive of the magazine:

The publisher said that soon after the magazine's closure, work started on the digitalisation of the Melody Maker archive, with a company employed to electronically scan every page of every issue of Melody Maker magazine, with a view to making the complete searchable digital archive available online under the Melody Maker brand.

IPC claims that any online archive service could be funded by advertising therefore providing users free access to historic Melody Maker artwork, including some of the Melody Maker logos. The publisher said the archive would be of interest to the general public at large as well as to the enthusiasts and academics.

"Soon after the magazine's closure", eh? Sure, there was seventy-odd years' worth of back issues to be scanning, but you'd have to raise a curious eyebrow that IPC have cheerily invested in a decade's worth of content production for a brand they're not actually promoting at the moment. That really is a labour of love. Given that they don't even bother to put most of NME online week-by-week, you'd wonder at the decision to spend so much time to make sure 1947's mid-June issues were available to the world at large.

It's not just scanning, it turns out:
Although the technical aspects of the archive are almost complete, IPC said it still needed to address some legal issues before making the archive available.

It's almost as if Press Gazette is having trouble believing this, too, as they rang IPC to check:
When approached about future plans for the Melody Maker brand, a spokeswoman for IPC Media: "Melody Maker is an iconic brand in the history of music magazines and we will continue to explore ways to make that historic content available digitally."

"We will continue to explore ways" sounds like that spokeswoman has somehow missed the ten-year scanning mission going on elsewhere in the building.

[Thanks to @pelicanhead for the story]

Darkness at 3AM: Ripped from the headlines

Trinity Mirror are trying to drive traffic to their sites by only offering a summary of content in their RSS feeds. The hope is, to see the whole story, you'll click through from your reader to the site, and read it with the adverts surrounding it.

Tip: For this to work, you might not want to put the entire story into the headline.

Also: they didn't mention Susan Boyle. It's a snub, I tell you, a snub.

Brits 2010: Did you know...?

The official Brits site has got a little widget on the front page which dispenses "BRITs Facts" - small gobbets of truth from the thirty years of British music covered by their remit.

Not quite sure what the qualification for being the sort of fact we're supposed to be celebrating is, though. This was beaming out a couple of moments ago when I visited:

Ah, yes. How better than to promote the UK as a cultural powerhouse than by reminding everyone about the time one of the nation's veteran artists was caught waving his cock about in a public toilet. I look forward to the factlet about Boy George and the rent boy in his bedroom.

While on the Brits site, there's this lovely bit of over-excitement:

Preserving The BRIT Awards status as one of the most inspiring and exciting events in music across the globe, The BRIT Awards 2010 will...

Can you guess what? What would help 'preserve' that status, the thing that (apparently) makes people feel inspired and excited by watching people getting prizes?
... will celebrate its 12 year partnership with sponsors MasterCard, maintaining the brands strong relationship with music and helping the music industry nurture home grown talent.

Oh, yes - acknowledging that it's been underwritten by the banking system for twelve long years. I know for a fact in Ohio, people speak of little else - "Did you hear that the Brit music awards is sponsored by a credit-card company? Why, I wish we had a music awards that could at least generate some interest from Diners Club at the very least..."

Gordon in the morning: The annual tradition of the Brit snub

Gordon has looked at the Brits shortlist, and - while he's happy with the presence of women - he finds reason to be outraged, too:

But how can SuBo - who had the biggest selling album in the UK and US last year - not be nominated for Best Female?

She must have been considered too uncool.

Oh, how I wish. How I wish that Susan Boyle had failed due to some sort of hitherto undisclosed quality threshold.

But, no, as Gordon should know: she didn't actually release anything in time to qualify for the 2010 Awards, and so when Gordon rails that:
[O]utrageously, SuBo, TAKE THAT and BEYONCE have all been snubbed

Nobody has actually been snubbed, have they? They just haven't qualified.

Every year we have this. Every bloody year.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brits nominations: If you're planning to act surprised when it's on ITV2, look away now

ITV2 will be showing the Brit Award nominations shortlist unveiling later, but it's already happened and so you can skip, if you wish.

Someone, somewhere, is putting together a news report under the heading 'here comes the girls', as the Telegraph points out:

Lily Allen has three nominations, as do Pixie Lott, Lady Gaga and Florence & the Machine

Lily Allen has three nominations? Pixie Lott has three nominations?

Pixie Lott?

Those nominations in full:
British Male Solo Artist

Calvin Harris

Dizzee Rascal


Paolo Nutini

Robbie Williams

British Female Solo Artist

Bat for Lashes

Florence & the Machine

Leona Lewis

Lily Allen

Pixie Lott

British Breakthrough Act

(Top 5 selected by Voting Academy; winner chosen by Radio 1 listeners)

Florence & the Machine

Friendly Fires


La Roux

Pixie Lott

British Group


Friendly Fires




MasterCard British Album

Dizzee Rascal Tongue n’Cheek

Florence & the Machine Lungs

Kasabian West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Lily Allen It’s Not Me, It’s You

Paolo Nutini Sunny Side Up

British Single

(Winner selected by UK Commercial Radio listeners)

Alesha Dixon Breathe Slow

Alexandra Burke Ft Flo Rida Bad Boys

Cheryl Cole Fight For This Love

Joe McElderry The Climb

JLS Beat Again

La Roux In For The Kill

Lily Allen The Fear

Pixie Lott Mama Do

Taio Cruz Break Your Heart

Tinchy Stryder Ft N-Dubz Number 1

International Male Solo Artist

Bruce Springsteen



Michael Bublé

Seasick Steve

International Female Solo Artist

Lady Gaga


Norah Jones



International Breakthrough Act
(Top 5 selected by Voting Academy; winner chosen by MTV viewers)

Animal Collective

Daniel Merriweather

Empire of the Sun

Lady Gaga

Taylor Swift

International Album

Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion

Black Eyed Peas The E.N.D.

Empire of the Sun Walking on a Dream

Jay-Z The Blueprint

Lady Gaga The Fame

Robbie Williams on the best British male shortlist? Does that mean he's agreed to turn up and do one of his tunes? I can't think of any other reason why he'd be there.

The rememberances for Animal Collective and Empire Of The Sun are pleasing, and it's nice to see La Roux in with a chance. The worry there is a dependence on votes from commercial radio listeners - a bit like a food awards asking Burger King customers for their input.

There's a special category, designed to remind people of just how badly misfiring the Brit machine is. It's for the best performance from the Brits of the last 30 years:
Bee Gees Stayin’ Alive/How Deep is Your Love (1997)

Bros I Owe you Nothing (1989)

Coldplay Clocks (2003)

Eurythmics & Stevie Wonder Angel (1999)

Girls Aloud The Promise (2009)

Kanye West Gold Digger (2006)

Kylie Minogue Can’t Get You Out of my Head (2002)

Michael Jackson Earth Song (1996)

Paul McCartney Live & Let Die (2008)

Pet Shop Boys Go West (1994)

Robbie Williams & Tom Jones The Full Monty Medley (1998)

Scissor Sisters Take Your Mama (2005)

Spice Girls Wannabe/Who Do You Think You Are (1997)

Take That Beatles Medley - I Wanna Hold Your Hand/Hard Day’s Night/ She Loves Me (1994)

The Who Who Are You (1988)

Bros? Really?

So, no Suede - perhaps unsurprisingly, but surely they're more memorable than Bros? No KLF. Michael Jackson's there, despite it being such a vomitty horror someone ended up in the cells as a result. And maybe it's time for the Brits to let go of the Scissor Sisters - that's a horse that has run its last furlong, surely?

Steve Penk: A charming human being

Last week, Steve Penk was complaining about the BBC abusing their power. This week, he's in the news in his own right.

Sadly, it's for being a cock.

Last week, the M60 was closed while police tried to talk down a suicidal woman from a gantry. Jolly old Steve came up with a wheeze - why not play Jump by Van Halen?

Hilarious. Because it's not like it was a person there, was it?

It got even more hilarious when the woman did, indeed, jump. Oh, the tears must have been flowing down Penk's face.

The woman survived with minor injuries. And does Penk feel any remorse?

'The entire area had been thrown into total chaos by a single troubled woman.

'I was very sorry to hear that the lady had subsequently jumped from the bridge, but relieved that her injuries were minor.

'If, as has been suggested, the woman jumped because she heard it from a passing car radio that's unfortunate.

'But I don't regret playing it for a minute.'

It seems unlikely that the woman would have heard the track on a car radio - the size of Revolution's audience makes that unlikely - but you've really got the measure of Steve Penk there. If I played a song which led her to leap off a bridge, I don't regret it at all. Charming.

What makes it worse is that he seems to have realised what he was doing was making an asinine joke about a woman he himself describes as "a single troubled woman".

In other news, the world has agreed that, should it spot Steve Penk on fire, it won't cross the road to piss on him. "After all" said everybody, "crossing the road might disrupt the traffic. And what's one person in pain compared with the traffic flow?"

Brits announce this year's ill-starred duet

It's become a tradition of the Brit Awards - the slapping together of a duet between two artists which doesn't even manage to scrape together looking good on paper.

This year, the names drawn out the hat at random are Florence And The Machine and Dizzee Rascal. It's expected to follow in the footsteps of The Gossip & Mika and Klaxons & Rihanna. So prepare to say goodbye forever to the pair of them.

Nominations are being unveiled tonight on ITV2. Fearne Cotton will be holding up a microphone and trying to think of something to say.

Carl Barat leaves open 2011 Libertines reunion

On the long-scale of reunion likelihood, running from The Smiths netherworld of impossibility to Madness' perpetual reformation, you can nudge the Libertines a couple of inches towards Madness. Carl Barat is making noises that he might consider it some time next year.

In unrelated news, Carl Barat's 'income/outgoing expenditure spreadsheet' has announced that the way things are going, the money might run out some time in 2011.

Luckily, there might be room in the diary:

"It's not definite definite. I can say 2011, but it's hard to plan the Libertines until next Tuesday. But 2011 is where there's room for that to happen. So if everything's all right, then, yeah, it would be glorious to get on the old jacket and venture forth, into the known."

It's not clear if there's an element of 'yeah, we must meet up this time - right now is tricky for me... how about some time before the end of recorded time?' to this. It's unlikely Pete Doherty makes firm plans more than about two hours in advance.

Shakira: Selflessly shopping to save your ass

Shakira - spokesperson for footwear firms and sometime singer - is out at the shops. But she's doing it for you, you ungrateful wretches:

"I do like to enjoy things any normal girl my age enjoys: I jog in the park, watch really bad movies. I used to feel guilty - I am a Catholic girl after all - but today, the way I see it, shopping keeps the world rolling. A world where people don't consume? The economy gets worse."

"I have no choice but to buy small coats for my dogs. Imagine if my dogs didn't have coats - there would be no dog-coat-manufacturing industry at all. Do you really think I want the families of dog-coat-manufacturers out of work? Could you live with that on your conscience? Now, I have to go in order to perform good works for the manufacturers of lobster bibs and champagne flutes. Ah, curse my conscience."

Gordon in the morning: Grief and shopping

Alexandra Burke is thinking about looking for a boyfriend:

"I find it hard to meet guys I like.

"Clubs or parties are the worst place to meet people. I'd rather meet someone in Sainsbury's - that's where it's at!"

That's quite lucky, as if she releases any more leaden churn like the new single, Broken Heels, that'll be where she's working.

Seriously, what was whoever picked that track thinking? It's the sort of song the dance group would have done on a light entertainment programme in the seventies - and a midweek one at that. Have I missed a London Night Out revival?

Gordon's excited, though:
The single singer, pictured here in an exclusive new snap

Funny thing: in the exclusive new snap, she's wearing a shiny, short top and doing that face like she's waiting for Derren Brown to tell her to go and rob a security van. Like in every other photo she's taken for the last four months.

Let's just be absolutely clear: Boyzone are in no way exploiting the death of Stephen Gately to sell records. What would give you that idea anyway?
HERE'S BOYZONE star RONAN KEATING breaking down in tears while writing a letter to tragic bandmate STEPHEN GATELY.

The moving scene is in the video for new single Gave It All Away, a MIKA-penned fave of Stephen's that the lads recorded shortly before he died.

You could just about get away with the mawkish video, although it's more 'look how upset we are' than a celebration of Gately's life. But then sending round a press release to generate a news story about it? That's not a tribute, it's a marketing campaign.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Express makes a Twit of itself

Unbelievably, it appears to have taken two Sunday Express typists, David Jarvis and David Stephenson, to pull together an inept wannabe-expose into the BBC's use of Twitter:


Do you see? It's a joke, because 'Twitter' sounds a bit like 'twit'. I wonder why nobody has noticed that before, eh?
STAFF at the BBC are sending thousands of Twitter messages – even though they are not reaching anyone.

What does that actually mean?
The BBC Radio 2 site, which gathers messages, or “tweets”, from presenters such as Chris Evans, Jonathan Ross and Alan Carr, has no followers.

The Radio 2 site actually sends the odd Tweet from staff at Radio 2 about the programmes, but not by or from Chris Evans. Oh, and the "no followers"? 12,470 at time of writing.

That's a bit of a miscount. Or perhaps lie.

Or maybe David and David are confused. There is a Twitter account called BBCRadio2 (without the underscores), which is unofficial. And even that account - with no tweets at all - has got 155 followers. It isn't following anyone. Could that be where the confusion has set in?

But even the Sunday Express wouldn't confuse 'a fake account not following anyone' with 'a genuine account not being followed by anyone', would they?

It turns out they might be confused:
The BBC Radio 5 Live site, run by presenter Victoria Derbyshire, has just two.

As this screengrab shows, Victoria is following just two people. But, erm, she's being followed by over three and a half thousand.

It gets worse, though:
Other Twitter sites at the Corporation uncovered by the Sunday Express include BBC Tamil, BBC Vietnam and BBC Southend.

"Uncovered by the Sunday Express"? This isn't the thalidomide scandal, you've typed 'BBC' into the search box, didn't you?

And why should it be surprising that the World Service has Twitter accounts? There's massive audiences for the network around the world; I get the snarky implication - the two Davids are hoping their readers will somehow think that licence-fee staff are poking out messages about tonight's EastEnders to Vietnam for no apparent reason. They really do underestimate their readers over at the Express, don't they?
Some accounts are duplicated – BBC Arabic has 2,244 followers while Arabic BBC has just 122.

But they're not duplicated. One is from World Service Radio, one is from the commercial World Television service. It's like seeing there's a BBC Radio 1 and a BBC One, and assuming they're the same thing.

Even if you're too dull to know that there are two distinct Arabic services, you can surely spot the content of the tweets are different, David? Or you could ask David to help you?

The two Davids worry that perhaps their readers might not even know what a Twitter is. Clearly, neither do they:
Twitter accounts, whose followers track daily tweets from other followers, are like emails between friends but shorter and open to everyone signed up to the site.

At least they got the name right, I suppose. They didn't call it Tweeter, or Twitterbook.
... whose followers track daily tweets from other followers ...

Hello, Daily Express reader. You might not understand Twitter. It's really quite simple, though - followers track daily tweets from other followers. They follow the followers. No, let me explain - these followers do a daily tweet, and they follow other followers who are following their follows... Hang on. Let's try that again:
like emails between friends but shorter and open to everyone signed up to the site

Yes, so they're like emails. Between friends. Except they're not, they're shorter than emails. And don't go between friends, they go between everyone signed up to the site. Who follow them. And... look: IT'S FAIRLY NEW AND ON THE INTERNET AND THUS IT MUST BE WRONG. And evil.

So the story is really coming together - we've got some blatant lies, some pathetic confusion, and an explanation that is neither accurate nor clear. What we'd really need now is some sort of quote from a person in a position of responsibility saying how terrible this all is. But since there's not actally an "all this" being terrible, where would you find a chump willing to honk off about it?

Hey... does anyone have a number for Tory central office?
Tory MP and former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe said: “This seems like a very odd use of time, particularly as the people tweeting are paid by the licence payer. It is yet another example of the BBC not understanding that it is funded by the licence payer.”

Ann Widdecombe? She thinks Twitter is an "odd use of time", does she? That's hardly surprising - Widdyweb not withstanding, she does seem to approach anything invented after about 1853 as if it's somehow 'odd'. You suspect she still struggles with the idea of 'listening at a walnut cabinet to news coming out of a loudspeaker'. Why is it 'odd' to spend time connecting with your audiences? Blue Peter used to send a letter to every child who sent something in. That was time-consuming, and resource intensive, but it made sense because it was part of making sure everyone felt part of the BBC. Which is right, because we all pay for it.

Still, it's good of Ann to lecture the BBC about not understanding stuff. Although since at least three of the accounts "uncovered" by the Express aren't, erm, funded by the licence payer (World Service drawing cash from grant-in-aid and World Television a commercial operation sitting under BBC Worldwide) she might want to brush up her own understanding before knee-jerking.
While the BBC insists the accounts on Twitter are free to set up, many BBC ­correspondents are sometimes “tweeting” up to 20 times a day during work hours.

Yeah, damn the BBC with it's "oh, the accounts are free to set up", just because they're free to set up. They've got an answer for everything.

Incidentally, can anyone explain the reason why sometimes the Express uses quotes around tweet and tweeting, and sometimes not?

It's true that - perhaps - some BBC staff are sending up to 20 tweets a day - which would add up to all of forty minutes at most, but given that the Express hasn't even attempted to explain why this is a bad thing, it's a bit like complaining that some continuity announcers are making as many as four announcements in an hour.

To be fair, the Express does quote someone from the BBC:
A BBC spokesman said: “Social media websites are an effective way of engaging with our audiences.

“Twitter is a free service and BBC accounts are popular with many users.”

- which is, awkwardly, demonstrably true.

Still, having thrown down the gauntlet about how connecting with your readers, viewers and listeners is a pointless overhead, the Express does at least practice what it screeches:
Have your say is unavailable for this story

Of course it is.

Wyclef Jean counters claims. Sort of.

Wyclef Jean has broken into his work in Haiti to talk about the claims that Yele Haiti might be murky round the edges:

It's heartfelt but doesn't go anywhere near explaining why Yele Haiti spent a quarter of a million dollars buying advertising airtime on a TV station in Haiti in which Jean has a controlling interest in.

XXL magazine has run a statement from the charity's president Hugh Locke explaining why there aren't full tax records:

“Yele Haiti, originally called the Wyclef Jean Foundation, filed a tax return in 2000 and then suspended activities until 2005 and so was not required by law to file a tax return until it resumed operation,” Locke explained.

That seems fair enough. Locke also expresses disappointment that the organisation is having to divert resources at this time of emergency to deal with the allegation - although if that is a sum greater or lesser than the amount being redirected to hire space in a studio building co-owned by Jean isn't clear.

I don't think anyone doubts Jean's commitment to doing the right thing for Haiti, and there are plenty of NGOs who are happy to work with Yele Haiti to get aid where it's needed. That should be good enough, for now. But perhaps - in a few months, when things are calmer - Jean might want to think about reorganising Yele Haiti's affairs in a way which doesn't require him to keep using the charity's money to purchase services from his for-profit companies. Just to keep things out of the murk.

This week just gone

The ten most-read stories so far this decade are:

1. Ray Reatard: Murder investigation launched
2. Kings Of Leon really love golf
3. The curious tale of Van Morrison's 'baby'
4. RIP: Jay Reatard
5. Bono calls for file-sharers to be treated like paedophiles or political dissidents
6. Video: The XX
7. Simon Cowell swaps American Idol for X Factor
8. Gawker questions Wyclef Jean's Haiti charity
9. Soundgarden: Back, back, back
10. Xfm picks the best song ever

Slowly, the 2010 release schedule is getting underway:

Vampire Weekend - Contra

Download Contra

Delphic - Acolyte

Download Acolyte

The Imagined Village - Empire And Love

Download Empire And Love

Kevin Coyne - I Want My Crown

Download Blame It One The Night

Robyn Hitchcock - Sex, Food, Death & Tarantulas

Sex Gang Children - Song And Legend

Download Song And Legend

Sonja Kristina - Harmonics Of Love