Saturday, March 13, 2010

Eurovision: Britain turns out to have a cruel sense of humour

Why, people of Britain? Why have you decided we should send to Eurovision a child with all the charisma of one of those temporary bus stops they use when the shelter is being repaired?

BPI decide to take on MI5 to push Digital Economy Bill

Having discovered during the week that, effectively, some Liberal Democrat peer had cut and pasted the BPI's wording for an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, the leaked BPI memo that Boing Boing has this morning isn't surprising. Depressing, as it shows once more how dirty private companies are prepared to play to get their way, but not surprising:

In the memo, [Director of Public Affairs Richard] Mollet identifies Britain's top spies as being a stumbling block to the bill's passage -- worried, apparently, that creating a Great Firewall of Britain will make it harder for spies to spy on naughty sites (someone should tell MI5 about Ipredator, the excellent proxy service from the Pirate Bay; after all, that's the same proxy that everyone else in Britain is likely to use to get at the blocked sites if the BPI gets its way).

Mollet also implies that Britain's spy agencies might have paid for a Talk Talk survey in which 71% of 18-34 year olds said that they would simply evade the DEB and go on infringing.

Mollet claims that Britain's ISPs have already caved into their duties to spy on and censor network connections, claiming that there is a sense of "settled will" in the "ISP community."

Despite the "B" in BPI, three of the four main companies it represents aren't British. Why are we so comfortable with foreign, private corporations trying to make law in the UK?

Downloadable: The Karen Cooper Complex

Here's something lovely and odd from the Free Music Archive: the Karen Cooper Complex. It's what happens when a band already trying to msuh together rock and jazz in a useful way then pulls in a proto-punk beatnik to the mix. The band never played live to an audience, but given that their recording sessions were happening-style as-we-go-along events, maybe they never needed to.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Wales and the West

You know how the PRS insists that everything it does is for the benefit of the its members? Somehow, they've stretched the definition of this to producing a pointless survey:

The Performing Rights Society used its 65,000-strong database to locate the birthplaces of its membership and work out Britain’s most musical cities.

Wales Online is quite excited at Cardiff coming, erm, second:
CARDIFF has beaten the birthplace of The Beatles and the home of Oasis to become the UK’s second “most musical city”.

The birthplace of Dame Shirley Bassey was named ahead of Liverpool and Manchester but lost out on the top spot to Bristol, home of Massive Attack.

The flawed nature of this survey is probably shown by how excited the Cardiff team are at coming higher than Manchester or Liverpool, which more or less concedes that, when thinking of musical cities, it's not Bristol that springs to mind first.

Still, with Cardiff celebrating, who to turn to but town-centrist expert Gennaro Castaldo, of the HMV people. Can he explain the musicaliscature of Carddif?
HMV pop guru Gennaro Castaldo said Cardiff’s place in the music world should be celebrated.

He said: “People think of Liverpool and Manchester as being the musical cities, and Cardiff is often forgotten. They forget the amazing contributions of Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, the male voice choirs, when somewhere like Liverpool is living off the history of one type of music and hasn’t produced any outstanding musicians since then.”

Now, I might sometimes be critical of Liverpool for living off the Beatles myth, but a man who is lauded as a pop guru casually writing off the Bunnymen, Wylie, Cope, OMD, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and the people who coagulated around Cream seems a little intemperate.

Hats off the Wales Online, by the way, for having a report which contradicts itself but doesn't seem in the least bothered:
Radio One DJ Bethan Elfyn said the region’s music scene centred on the city.

“It’s so exciting at the moment with loads of pubs and clubs putting on gigs,” said the Cardiff-born DJ.

“In the city there are four or five venues showcasing live music every night, all the way up to the Coal Exchange, and even the Millennium Stadium. The best thing is we have so many different types of music on offer.”
Carol White, a tutor at Grassroots City Centre Youth Project, which gives young bands and performers a chance to record and rehearse without spending a fortune, said she was not surprised at Cardiff’s position in the table.

But she said musicians were not given the opportunity to showcase their talents due to the closing down of many of the city’s venues.

She said: “Compared to Bristol, which has loads of great small venues that up-and-coming bands can play at, Cardiff has hardly any.

“We’ve already lost the Point, the Globe has been trying to soundproof so it’s not closed.

“Why can’t the local authorities help them out so we’ve got plenty of venues? The bands just don’t get any support.”

A city simultaneously packed with loads and loads of great venues, busy night after night, and suffering from a terrible shortage of venues. I'd imagine one of those would have to be right.

Phil Spector pins hopes on judical error

Phil Spector hopes that he can use judicial error as a way of getting out of prison:

[His legal team] are claiming that the testimonies of five women were improperly used during Spector's trial. The five acquaintances of the producer said during the trial that he had threatened them with a gun in the past. The lawyers are claiming that the incidents were not comparable to the circumstances of Clarkson's death.

Yes, because you can't compare waving a gun in a person's face in a threatening way and waving a gun in a person's face in a threatening way and then blowing their face off. Two totally different things.

If I were Spector, I wouldn't bother buying seats at next year's Superbowl.

Gordon in the morning: Thin day

Coming this spring to Channel 4 - a whole new season of Dharma and Greg. She's a free-flowing free spirit who loves life; he's an uptight, buttoned-down kind of guy who finds intimacy and spontaneity awkward. Can their love survive their crazy mismatched coupling?

Oh... hang on a moment, it turns out that's actually a photo of Gordon Smart meeting Nadine Coyle for a chat.

I bumped into her yesterday in London's Air Studios

What a strange coincidence - and just a few hours after Gordon published a story about how thin Coyle looks these days. Just happened to bump into her, with a photographer alongside him.

Gordon, of course, doesn't really understand all this obsession with weight:
I'm a fella writing a column and I find the obsession with female celebs' weight a bit odd.

Really, Gordon?

Except when it comes to Colin Farrell, presumably:
COLIN FARRELL looks like a man who has been hanging around with AMY WINEHOUSE.

Colin was snapped after a dip in Malibu, showing off the body of a man who hasn't had a sniff of Guinness in months.

Or when reporting on a song telling Keira Knightley she's too thin:
The lyrics go: "Keira, Keira, eat your dinner. Keira, Keira, you can't get much thinner. Go to a restaurant with Michael Winner. Keira, Keira, eat your dinner."


I can't imagine weight-conscious Keira will be too pleased with the tune though.

It might even put her off her dinner.

To see if you agree with Jilted see more pics of Keira in our slideshow.

And, naturally, if it'a about Amy Winehouse, well, you'd have to chip in:
AN emaciated AMY WINEHOUSE partied in London last night in scenes that have become worringly familiar for the skinny star.

And, obviously, you can't write about James Corden without mentioning it:
EDDIE LARGE, LES DAWSON and RONNIE BARKER are comedy giants in every sense of the word.

Big guys with huge personalities who got to the very top.

The latest in this noble line of plus-size funnymen to find fame is Bizarre Award winner JAMES CORDEN.

But alarming news reaches me - the cuddly comic may not stay tubby much longer.

For a man who doesn't understand the obsession with weight, he seems to write about it a hell of a lot. Perhaps he doesn't really like Kasabian, either.

Still - despite not really understanding the obsession - Gordon carried out his fearless investigation into Nadine's body shape:
To give the size of her legs some scale I put my thigh next to hers. Nadine is tiny but she didn't look unhealthily skinny.

That might just sound like a chance to rub your thigh on a pretty woman's leg, but actually - since the body mass index was revealed to be flawed - comparing your leg with a model of Gordon Smart's has become a recognised medical test.

Naturally, Gordon didn't spend all his time wondering if he should suggest comparing chest sizes, but the Ashley Cole part of the conversation was so groundbreaking, it requires its own URL:
[T]he Girls Aloud star insisted she would blank love rat ASHLEY COLE if he walked into the studios where we were chatting.

She said: "I'd just sit here and say nothing."

Woman not prepared to tolerate mate's cheating ex. Front pages, surprisingly, unheld.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bookmarks - Internet stuff: Music industry

Victor Keegan writes a brilliant 'cheer up, misery guts' piece for the Guardian pointing out that the only place the music industry is really in trouble is in the music industry's minds. It's great from the standfirst:

If music executives sold bottled water, they'd be calling for a ban on tapwater downloads.

6Music: Planet Rock offers berth to Bruce Dickinson

I mentioned in the comments how the decision to axe Bruce Dickinson's rock show from 6Music looks a little fishy. In terms of the 6Music playlist, it's an outlier, and presumably brings in a different audience. So, if you were looking for a way to reduce a station's reach figures, in order to help justify closing the network, axing such a programme would make sense.

There's good news for the fans of the show, though: Mark Bluemel is hoping to bring Dickinson to Planet Rock.

So, does this at least prove the two Thompson's claims that closing 6Music is a good thing for the commercial radio sector?

Erm... no:

Bluemel, who rescued Planet Rock after its former owner GCap Media said it was going to close the station, said he was "disappointed" at the prospect of 6 Music's demise.

"It's not a good thing for digital radio to have it close," said Bluemel, whose station has an average weekly reach of 698,000 listeners, marginally ahead of 6 Music, which had 695,000 in the last three months of 2009.

He does complain about the costs of the station:
[H]e described the station's annual budget of £9m in 2008-2009, including £6.5m on content, as "ridiculous".

"We could run the station on a quarter of that budget. There is no reason to kill 6 Music. They should just kill some of the cost. It is a ridiculous amount of money to run a station that size," Bluemel said.

Well, yes. If you're primarily playing records and have a few presenters, you could run the station for a lot less. But a couple of sessions every day, presenters operating out of at least two cities, a dedicated news operation... if you cut the 6Music budget to the level of Planet Rock, you'd wind up with a totally different station.

Mambo Taxi Breakfast: Poems On The Underground

So here's your second slice of morning Mambo Taxi. This was the big hit - which, back in the mid-1990s indie means "played a couple of times on Peel", rather than now, which would be "top ten for six weeks and used on The One Show". Poems On The Underground:

[Half of the Mambo Taxi breakfast]

Bookmarks - Internet stuff: Record shops

There's a sad-but-heartfelt forum thread over on West Midlands site The Stirrer remembering old Birmingham record shops:

Who remembers the record shop in Piccadily Arcade with the mad welsh man who threw you out at 10am if he didnt like you pretending he was closing for lunch as an excuse. I went in with a Virgin record bag once and he threw me out as well because i shopped at the opposition.

Downloadable: Nada Surf

For now, the Nada Surf covers album is only available if you go to Nada Surf show. But come June, shut-ins and people-who-had-tango-class-the-night-Nada-Surf-came-to-town will be able to buy the thing in shops.

In the short term, Electrocution - originally by Bill Fox - is available for sampling downloadage.

Embed and breakfast man: Mambo Taxi

Having mentioned Mambo Taxi, and acknowledging that there's not quite enough video to run to an entire Mambo Taxi weekend - even one that peters out around Saturday teatime - let's have a Mambo Taxi Breakfast, shall we?

Officially, Mambo Taxi ran for about five years, and it was mostly running. Anjali Bhati left early to join the Voodoo Queens, and then went on to release a couple of sublime solo singles.

This, taken from '1994 UK video zine documentary "Getting Close To Nothing"' is the mighty 'Do You Always Dress Like That In Front Of Other People's Boyfriends'?

All out of print now, but second hand copies of Poems On The Underground and In Love With... turn up every so often.

There's another slither of Mambo Taxi along in a few minutes: Poems On The Underground

Downloadable: The Loves

Delia Sparrow has lit up any number of underrated indie acts - Mambo Taxi, Baby Birkin and The Action Time. And now the world of indie has paid tribute to her, in the form of a track on a new ep by The Loves.

r. 'We always stay at her house when we're in London so I thought we'd show her our gratitude with a song. I'm sure she'd have preferred money or booze or something though', says lead singer Simon Love.

And, being indie, you can get it for free, via the FortunaPop website. Deal!

80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster: They've got plans

Time is moving so fast, it doesn't seem so very long since we last got an email with news of an 80s Matchbox return. But they're returning again, anyway. There's a new album, Blood And Fire, coming out in May; in support, they're playing Camden Crawl and The Great Escape.

Oh, and a headline set at the Relentless Garage on June 3rd. That's not as far away as it sounds. Time is moving so fast.

Embed and breakfast man: Noah & The Whale

Noah And The Whale take the campaign to save 6Music to Vimeo with a cover of Last DJ:

Last Dj by Tom Petty cover for BBC6 from charlie fink on Vimeo.

[Thanks to Jon M for the link]

Gordon in the morning: He's so sorry, JLS

Yesterday, you'll recall, Gordon broke off from fawning over JLS to have a quick fawn over N-Dubz instead. However can he apologise to JLS?

Hey, how about running a complete non-story on them?

AFTER months of touring and having to spend hours together on a bus you'd think JLS would be sick of the sight of each other.

Far from it - the boy band have jetted off on their holibags together.

MARVIN, ASTON, ORITSE and JB are today soaking up the sun in Dubai.

Does anyone else hear the sound of Gordon trying to persuade the finance department that he really needs to follow them.
I bet BA will see a surge of bookings for flights to Dubai - the boys will be having to beat girls away with sticks on the beach tomorrow.

I don't think Dubai applies sharia law to quite that extreme, Gordon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Downloadable: Tunng

And the second half of a two-for-one-where-one-is-free deal, the splendid Tunng, all remixed by Bloc 'the time is clearly weighing heavily on their hands' Party. RCRDLBL for it again.

Downloadable: Echo And The Bunnymen

Echo and The Bunnymen - well, you don't really need to be introduced, do you? RCRDLBL is offering Proxy as a download.

Liberal Democrat peer takes dictation from BPI

Here's some murky behaviour from the Liberal Democrats: it turns out that Lord Clement-Jones has added a clause to the Digital Economy Bill that's virtually word-for-word a BPI proposal.

That's right: a bloke who's never been elected sticking clauses into a bill written by a lobbying group representing international businesses. Don't you love democracy?

From MediaGuardian:

Today a spokesman for the BPI insisted that the organisation was not embarrassed at the disclosure of the source of the amendment.

"This was a suggestion that we made to the government in 2009, with this wording. This version of the proposal was sent to the government and also to the opposition parties. The government decided it wanted to go a different way. The opposition parties, while not fully agreeing with it, saw it as a good framework for what they wanted to put down," the spokesman said. "We have consistently said that the digital economy bill should have sensible measures to deal with peer-to-peer file sharing."

Clement-Jones had added a few extra words, but effectively, he's just got the BPI to do his homework for him. And ended up handing in work that's fundamentally flawed.

I'm wearing Winehouse

Given that Amy Winehouse has struggled to scrape enough songs to make a decent two-sided-single, you'd have thought that she'd have more than enough to keep her busy. But it turns out not, as - alongside "managing" that record label with just the one relative on the books - she's now branching out into fashion.

Or clothes, at least:

Amy Winehouse is to bring out her own clothing collection as part of a collaboration with the Fred Perry label, it was announced today.

"I'm really excited – we've been working on it for a while and it's great to see it finally come to fruition," the singer said.

The 17-piece retrocollection will consist of capri trousers, cardigans and mini-dresses.

But please don't run away thinking that this is simply a marketing marriage of convenience:
"Amy has been wearing Fred Perry for years, so we were aware she was a genuine fan of the brand," the Fred Perry marketing director, Richard Martin, said.

She's always been waking up for years with mascara all over her face and her hair full of twigs, of course, but that hasn't got either L'Oreal or the Forestry Commission on board.

It's easy to be cynical about celebrity fashion ranges, suspecting that the big name does little more than say "how about trousers?" and then pockets a big cheque. But Amy has been really really really at the heart of the process:
"We had three major design meetings where she was closely involved in product style selection and the application of fabric, colour and styling details."

Three meetings? As many as that? Clearly, that's probably one more meeting than you'd actually need to properly design a full range of clothing, but let's be fair: she's not a trained designer.

Downloadable: Popular Damage

What's your damage, Heather? Well, in this case, it's Popular Damage. Mancunian-Berliner pop dance made by XX reshaping duo Nadine Raihani and Stephan Hengst. They sound like this:

Exclusive [Original Mix]

Befriend them on MySpace and damage yourself further.

Are you a girl?

There's a fifty per cent chance that you are. In which case, you might want to sharpen your pens as the International Girl Gang Underground is looking for contributions:

THE INTERNATIONAL GIRL GANG UNDERGROUND compilation zine aims to document and dissect how Riot Grrrl's legacy has manifested twenty years later, as well as provide guidance for those who want to transform "revolution girl style now!" into "REVOLUTION GIRL STYLE FOREVER!"

If Riot Grrrl doesn't resonate with you or your cause, that's okay! We also want to know about all the do-it-yourself, grassroots music movements currently being run by women/girls/trans/genderqueer/queer folks today.

Probably don't sharpen pens any more, do you? What would the modern equivalent be? "Scrape the gunk out of the ball on your mouse", perhaps. Contribution details and more fact at the website.

Owen meanies: Mark Owen asks if he's being sorry enough

This morning's reports about Mark Owen's human failings leave a nasty taste in the mouth, with the "confession" in the Sun having all the hallmarks of a vaguely famous person reluctantly washing their dirty laundry in public to head off the paper from parading the skidded knickers for all to see.

"I have been living with the guilt. It has always been there - you carry it around with you," he said.

"It held me back in my relationship with Emma. I wouldn't have done any of this if I had my time again.

"I am halfway through my life now and this, in a way, is a lesson. You've got to learn and that's what I am going to do."

It's not entirely clear what the lesson is - although 'if you want to sound heartfelt, don't let your press office draft your apologies' might be a good one - but at least the story seeped out in a controlled way. You know, the way BNFL used to control the radioactive water they'd pump into the Irish Sea.

Over at the Mirror, without the actual apology to run with, the 3AMies fall back on listing
Mark Owen, Tiger Woods, Vanessa Hudgens and the top 10 not so squeaky clean stars

Top of the list is Britney Spears for, erm, being mentally ill. Classy, 3AM Girls. Classy.

6Music: Economist bitch-slapped by reader using facts

Clearly, the Economist doesn't bring its usual considered approach when it talks about pop music. The magazine covered the 6Music closure this week:

In 2002 the BBC introduced 1Xtra, a digital urban-music station that bore a suspicious similarity to Xfm, a commercial outfit. It followed up by launching 6 Music, an alternative-rock station, and the Asian Network. The stations received plenty of promotion on the corporation’s television channels.

Oh really, asked qwertymartin:
Why let mere facts trouble you?

Absolute Radio plays "roughly the same kind of music" as 6 Music? In the last 30 days 6 Music shared 11% of its playlist with Absolute:

"Suspicious similarity" between 1Xtra and XFM? In the last 30 days 1Xtra shared 0% of its playlist with XFM:

The only things that are rough and suspicious here are this article's interpretation of reality.

You can just about understand why a superficial listen might think Absolute and 6Music is "roughly the same" - guitars, isn't it? - but how on earth could you think that 1Xtra and XFM are similar? Unless you think "there's some music and then some talking" qualifies? Or is it because they both have X in their name?

[with thanks to @alanconnor]

Gordon in the morning: Remind me, what's the opposite of a brain drain?

After yesterday's unlikely suggestion of JLS being like The Beatles in America, Gordon has an even more unlikely tale of American dreams leads off Gordon Smart's column this morning:

N-Dubz move to the city of aN-gels

City of aN-gels? That's the best they could come up with?
LA-LA LAND is about to become Na Na Niii land - N-DUBZ' American dream is becoming a reality.

Oh, dear.

The story boils down to LA Reid having had a meeting with two of the band and some grown-ups last week.
Music boss Reid wants them to move to America for a full year, from this summer, so they can be completely focused on making it in the US charts.

Funnily enough, everybody in Britain wants them to move to America for at least a full year. Or perhaps Mongolia. Burma, even.

With all due respect to LA Reid - a man who knows a tax write-off when he sees one - but just a year for N-Dubz to crack the American market? It's going to take eighteen months for Dappy to work out that there's a time difference.

Gordon explains exactly what the move means:
They'll swap fried chicken in Camden High Street for cheeseburgers in the shadow of the Hollywood Hills.

Apparently this "cheeburger" of which he speaks is some sort of ground-up cowsmeat and rotting milk sandwich popular in America. Let's hope N-Dubz are fully briefed, though, and don't expect to be able to find something as uniquely British Kentucky Fried Chicken in America, eh?
Who'd have thought this trio of tearaways would be the UK's next big US hope as they boldly go where the likes of ROBBIE WILLIAMS and OASIS have failed.

Well, nobody reading yesterday's piece about JLS being the the UK's next big US hope for a start, I'd say.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

iTunes LP: Unloved child

GigaOM takes some time out to run a hey, anyone remember the iTunes LP format? piece, pointing out that it's quietly sitting in the corner, unused:

Only 29 LPs are currently for sale in the iTunes store, about a dozen of which were available when the format was launched. Several are catalog albums, meaning that only a couple of new releases each month appear as iTunes LPs. The same person who participated in an iTunes LP project said, “If it costs $50,000 or $60,000, we’re not going to do it again,” although at the same time, acknowledged that Apple’s extra promotion of the release in conjunction with iTunes LP helped it become a moneymaker after all.

And - as everyone guessed at the time - the report suggests that Apple couldn't have cared less about creating iTunes LP; indeed, it was an unwanted child only conceived to try and save a marriage:
I’m told by an industry source who preferred to remain anonymous that iTunes LP wasn’t Apple’s idea in the first place. Rather, it’s the result of the same renegotiations between Apple and the major record labels that yielded DRM-free songs and flexible pricing early last year, a concession by Cupertino to make a gesture in favor of album sales as consumers increasingly show a preference for digital singles.

The lesson, which will be ignored by a music industry desperate to not hear it, is that people aren't interested in paying money for songs they don't want, and certainly don't want to pay more for songs they don't want, however beautifully

EMI lose another leader

Hey! Hey! You guys - let's stop worrying about Citigroup taking EMI over because we screwed up when we borrowed the money to buy the company. Let's just have some fun. I'll switch the lights off, we can all move about, and then I'll switch the lights on again and we can see who is going to be in charge for the next few weeks. Fun, huh? Alright... off go the lights...

... and on they come again.

Elio Leoni-Sceti has been dumped as CEO; Charles Allen out of the Twilight Of ITV moves from being a non-executive chair to executive chair.

There's an official statement:

Charles has been non-executive Chairman of EMI Music since January 2009, chairing its Board and supporting the transformation of the business. Elio Leoni-Sceti, EMI Music’s Chief Executive, who has successfully led EMI Music through the first phase of its operational turnaround, will be leaving the company on March 31st 2010.

Yes, Elio's been a rip-roaring success. So, erm, naturally, we're getting rid of him. It's what you do when someone's been successful in phase one - dump him and bring in someone EQUALLY SUCCESSFUL to look after phase two. And the guy who helped ITV Digital be all successful by losing £1.4billion, he's the guy for the job, right?
Charles said: “Elio has done a great job. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him; he is a very talented executive and we all wish him well in the future. Our goals for EMI Music remain the same. I will support and guide the group’s strong team, keep EMI’s focus on creativity and superb A&R, and deliver a digital platform. This is a great business – our task is to ensure it has a great future."

EMI has a focus on superb A&R? Or is Allen still being as satirical as when he claimed that Elio had done a great job?
Elio added: “EMI is a wonderful business with a great team and new creative and operational momentum. My job here is now done and it is time for me to move on. It has been a pleasure to work with Charles and so many other talented and committed people. I look forward to seeing the company go on to further success in the future.”

... the sort of successes that I have brought them. In other words, I hope they ALL have to cram their belongings into a filing box and shuffle out to the car park while someone - probably the drummer from Starsailor - unscrews the nameplate on their office doors.

Elio's departure may or may not be related to documents just filed in a US court which told a completely different tale. Business Week reports:
In a letter to Hands, part of court documents filed Feb. 4 in New York, Leoni-Sceti had written that morale at the company had reached a low and that artists were questioning whether to stay.

EMI is in talks with artists, “all of whom are questioning to some degree whether it is wise to continue a relationship with EMI,” Leoni-Sceti wrote in the Oct. 2 letter, saying their concerns were sparked by a Citigroup report on EMI’s prospects. Hands had named Leoni-Sceti to the top job in July 2008 with no music industry experience.

But - hey - it's all success, success, success if you ignore that.

Just to underline how successful EMI is with all these talented people running it, Business Week adds that OK GO have dumped the label and Queen and Pink Floyd are thinking of taking their back catalogue elsewhere.

Pink Floyd sue EMI for allowing people to not buy the rubbish ones

You've got to love the irony: for years, the major labels have been trying to find ways of forcing people to buy digital music in bundles, only for Pink Floyd to get upset with EMI for, erm, allowing people to buy individual tracks:

"Pink Floyd [are] well-known for performing seamless pieces," said Robert Howe, the band's lawyer, at a High Court hearing yesterday. "Many of the songs blend into each other." To reflect this, Pink Floyd's renegotiated 1999 contract "expressly prohibits" EMI from selling songs out of context. And yet, Howe argues, EMI "[permit] individual tracks to be downloaded online and ... [therefore allow] albums not to be sold in their original configuration."

EMI's defence is the 1999 contract didn't even consider digital downloads. Seriously? Nobody at either EMI or on Pink Floyd's team considered selling songs online in 1999? No wonder the old labels are struggling to cope.

It's not clear why Pink Floyd are desperate to make people give them money for songs their audience don't actually want, but legal experts suggest it might be a mixture of "arrogrance, ego, and old-fashioned greed."

Radio 2 cuts Radcliffe & Maconie by a quarter

With 6Music being led towards the hospice, the BBC keeps telling listeners not to worry, because they'll be well-served by other pop music programming elsewhere on the BBC.

And, to be fair, while losing Marc Riley's four nights a week of new music, old music and sessions - well, Radio 2 does have a slightly more mainstream version of the same thing in Radcliffe And Maconie, doesn't it?

Oh, hang on, maybe not:

Radcliffe and Maconie's award-winning weeknight show, which has been running on Radio 2 since 2007, will be cut from four to three nights a week.

Their Thursday night outing will be replaced with a new live music strand, In Concert, which previously aired on Radio 1.

Oh, bloody hell. Still, I expect Radcliffe & Maconie listeners are tip-top for the commercial network demographic - right, Caroline Thomson?

Bob Geldof still unhappy at Band Aid questions

On Monday, Rageh Omaar wrote a piece for the Guardian saying, in effect, that grown-up people know that in war-torn areas humanitarian efforts sometimes get misdirected. He expressed mild surprise that all the charities involved in the 80s Ethiopian famine had reacted the World Service report by yelling "never", rather than asking to inspect the claims more closely; and said that perhaps we shouldn't treat Band Aid as if it was somehow above criticism.

All very reasonable and balanced. Isn't that right, Bob Geldof?

Rageh Omaar's piece "Even Band Aid is not above criticism" is ridiculous.

It is of course not about me, or Band Aid, but rather a defence of journalistic exceptionalism, and the now thoroughly discredited BBC World Service programme that "sexed up" a claim that nigh-on the entire humanitarian relief effort by all aid agencies was diverted to arms in Tigray province in 1985.

If you've been watching the reaction to this story closely, you'll have spotted that Bob has shifted his complaint somewhat. Initially, he insisted that there was not a shred of evidence that any money went astray. Now, he's objecting to the claims about the level of money which went astray.

Geldof seems to be most upset not at the idea, but that he was mentioned in the piece:
[Omaar] allies himself with the programme's dubious technique of using a "star" name to attract attention to an otherwise unexceptional or dubious point of view in the hope that it will gather attention.

Except Omaar does no such thing - he mentions Geldof just once in his story, referencing Bob's appearance on the Andrew Marr show. Which was the point where Bob firmly placed himself as the star of the story.

Geldof then goes on to list the sorts of things people have a pop at him for:
So let me first say that far from being above criticism, should Rageh or the World Service colleague he seeks to protect have done the basic journalistic gig of doing a teensy bit of research before they write their stories by, say, doing something basic like maybe Googling my name, he would immediately be overwhelmed by a 35-year torrent of vituperation and condemnation of everything about me – from my suspiciously foreign-sounding name to my shaving and bathing habits, hairstyle (fair enough!), my partners, children, domestic life, temperament, driving habits, political views, attitudes, clothing, style, music, driving and on and on. No, Rageh, rest assured, I am definitely not above criticism – but again, please, for the sake of veracity, and again, I extend this to the wretched Martin Plaut, your fellow journalist, stop venturing palpably untrue statements dressed up as fact.

It's a bit puzzling why Geldof thinks discovering someone online saying Vegetarians Of Love is rubbish somehow has anything to do with a journalist suggesting that Live Aid should be open to public scrutiny.
And how arrogant you are, how self-important, that you should deign to lecture on the implied assumption that you, and by extension all journalists – and specifically in this case the BBC World Service – are above the criticism that you are so busily wagging your finger at me for, and which I (clearly getting above my station) have last weekend meted out to your incompetent mate and his associates at the Beeb.

Omaar never says that journalists should be above criticism, and - given that he feels a need to offer words on Martin Plaut's reputation - if there's any implication about journalism, it's that you should think carefully about if you trust a particular reporter or not.
Get it straight, pal – you are not.

He doesn't appear to think they are.
Either as individuals or organisations.

He doesn't think they are.
It's about time a little humility was allowed into your closed self-regarding little media world. But like the bankers and the MPs these days, you lot just don't get it, do you?

Yeah! You media fuckers in your little media world, you're just like the bankers and MPs in your little media bubble. Thank god an outsider like, erm, the non-executive director of one of the UK's larger indie TV producers will stand up to the media.
As for Band Aid, well, as a trustee said to me, sickened upon seeing the shameful Times cartoon which accepted the BBC story as gospel (of course)...

It's so typical of The Times, that - Murdoch's papers never miss an opportunity to show how much they love the BBC.
...without asking any questions: "We've taken it on the chin for 25 years and never said anything. Not this time."

There's been hardly any criticism of Band/Live Aid since it happened - the odd Chumbawamba album aside - and most of it has focused on how the money was raised, not how it was spent. And if there has been a quarter century of allegations that the organisation has chosen to "take on the chin"... well, that's hardly the BBC's fault.

If it was true, by the way, why now suddenly act all upset? Because it's on the World Service? That seems a little like, ooh, someone using a big name to create a fuss. You know, Bob, the thing you were complaining about a few paragraphs back?
Definitely not this time. The Band Aid Trust is reporting BBC World Service to Ofcom and the BBC board of directors, and we have requested transcripts of all interviews from the show in question from the deputy chairman of the BBC.

Or, you know, you could simply read the From Our Own Correspondent page, where the actual report turns out to be much more measured than you imply; which is more about Plaut's frustration that he never asked these questions back when it mattered and how he was too reliant on the rebel factions himself; where he throws doubt on the veracity of his main source; where he includes a long interview with Max Peberdy - who was in Tigray at the time - and who denies there was any misuse of aid. And where he reveals that he invited Bob Geldof to take part in the programme, and Geldof refused.

But Bob is making up for it now:
As you probably know anyway, but it just doesn't fit into your pompous guff this time, Band Aid has been under the most intensive scrutiny since and most particularly during the mid-80s. Quite rightly, too. We have an obligation to all those who entrusted us with their money and more particularly to those in whose name it was given. That is what I and my fellow trustees have been doing for the last 26 years. Same guys, same trust. And we ain't stopping now. Pretty weird, however, that not one, not a single one of the dozens of journalists of record and others who have travelled with me or covered Band Aid "discovered" Martin Plaut's "story" (and story is indeed what it is). Some feel the press has a right to lie. Rageh, no such right exists.

Does Bob Geldof really think that Rageh Omaar believes the press has a right to lie? I can't decide if it would be more worrying if Geldof did believe that, or if it's more worrying that he just thought making something like that up as a rhetorical device was the right thing to do.

I'm a little confused, as Geldof kicked off saying that the Band Aid trust had ignored all the allegations for the last quarter century - ""We've taken it on the chin for 25 years and never said anything. Not this time." Now he says just a few paragraphs later that the Trust has spent 26 years responding to detailed scrutiny. Can't be both, surely?

As for nobody who "travelled with me" hearing the story that Plaut did, would that be so surprising? Plaut himself says that it never occurred to him to ask the questions before; much less likely that someone on a stage-managed tour with Bob would find themselves face-to-face with a person claiming that they'd been siphoning off aid, would they?
The real story of this sorry saga is the intense systemic failure of the World Service, that cherry on the cake of the BBC's reputation.

An intense systemic failure of a cherry. A cherry on a cake.
It's a rotten old cherry these days.

The World Service is rotten cherry. And old. A rotting, old cherry.
And I am as bereft as a jilted lover. Of all the taxes I pay, I pay only one gladly – my licence fee. I am Mr World Service.

You realise that the licence fee doesn't pay for the World Service, don't you, Mr. World Service?

(And does that make you Mr Rotting Old Cherry?)
I have done ads promoting the BBC, I have written and spoken in its defence, it is indeed the BBC who started me and others on this African journey; I believe it must, at all costs, be retained very similar to what it is now, albeit cutting away the deadwood and slack. But basically: "I Want My BBC!"

One programme raises some fair questions, you refuse to take part, and all of a sudden it's systemic?
But this BBC story was neither about me nor Band Aid. By disingenuously posturing as "serious" reporting, it pretended the total failure and negligence of all the great humanitarian workers and their organisations in the worst famine in modern times, and how miraculously not one of them spotted that no one was getting food despite everyone supplying it!

This does suggest, again, that the report was insisting that 95% of all aid was redirected; confusing a quotation in the report with the thrust of the report.
It beggars belief that anyone would take that seriously.

Ah, so your threats of legal action are going to fail as you don't think anyone could have believed the reports?
Where were all the dead people then? If no one was getting food, why was nobody dying? That would have been one of the first questions I'd have asked. But they weren't dying because they were getting help, and massive amounts of it. But of course no one did ask where the bodies were at the World Service. That and many, many, other unasked questions.

Yes. Of course, had you decided to talk to the programme, instead of not, you could have helped shape the general direction of it. And, really, Plaut's report actually explains that, if there were deals with bad people, it was done with the intention of stopping people dying; to get the grain to them, not to stop it. Plaut writes:
Although I was now finally following the trail of the money and the rebel guns, I am only too aware that I was making these enquiries 20 years too late.

The aid workers who did so much to help those suffering back then had not asked those questions either. But perhaps they would not have saved so many lives if they had.

You might have to do deals with devil for the greater good - that was what the report was suggesting.

Geldof then bangs on intemperately for a few paragraphs about how terrible the World Service is. Although even if the story had been what he seems to have heard (rather than the programme everyone else tuned in to), and even if it isn't true, one tale hardly leaves a seventy year tradition in tatters. Even if it is Bob Geldof who has taken exception to the programme.
Where were the producers and editors and seniors? Why was Plaut allowed to go mad on his pre- and post- media interview circus around the world with bonkers wild accusations? Just to get an audience? Did he and the World Service for one second comprehend the enormous damage and danger he immediately put every humanitarian worker in? Particularly the huge, brave and brilliant Red Cross? Did he not consider, for one microsecond, the consequences of accusing them, with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, that they had handed over 95% of their cash to purchase arms?

Sigh. Plaut didn't accuse them of that. Aregawi Berhe made the accusation of 95%.
It literally beggars belief at the enormity of the consequence had his lie not been nailed immediately and with as much vehemence as could be mustered. How appalling the utter and total disregard or incomprehension of the result of his actions. What if the Red Cross, now compromised in their neutrality, were ordered away from war zones, or forbidden access to the deepest dungeons, or concentration camps? What then, Rageh Omaar and Martin Plaut? What then of your smug certitudes and thin pieties? Then you could report on the blood on your own hands rather than falsely smear it over the hands of others. How dare you, Rageh Omaar, attempt to defend the awful indefensible. Just for that alone, Plaut should be fired. You people, you self-important mediators of "news", should wise up and accept a little humility rather than attack the aid agencies and their workers for being above criticism and ask yourself, as I do, who the hell are you to lecture?

Wow. Naturally, Bob will now back up his rant by pointing to the places where this edition of From Our Own Correspondent has caused this sort of problem for the Red Cross.

Oh, actually he doesn't.

But then, these sort of allegations have been floating about for 25 years, claims Bob (except when he's claiming they haven't); they'd presumably have filtered back to the more paranoid and bellicose at the frontlines of conflict by now?
Just as the Ross-Brand affair exposed the systemic weaknesses of the BBC in the area of entertainment, so this now does in the news sector of the World Service – albeit with far more drastic consequences. Where were the editors, subs and producers? As the Independent rightly asked, "Did the bells not go off" early on in this sorry tale? Where were the checks, balances, neutrality, even-handedness? They all failed at the World Service. Worse, they inconsistently and continuously contradicted themselves in their ludicrously pompous Rorke's Drift-type face-saving insistence on "sticking by their story". Well, they were right in the use of the word "story".

Bob has been around the media long enough to understand that From Our Own Correspondent is a signed piece; that the programme did include other viewpoints and raised eyebrows. And banging on about Ross/Brand really pegs this as little more than a high-class version of a Daily Mail reader's comment.
Despite the on-the record refutation of everything in Plaut's report by very senior White House advisers, high-level UN delegates, senior British ex-ambassadors and diplomats, all the aid agencies, the leader of rest the Tigrayan relief group at the time, the prime minister of Ethiopia and rebel leader at the time, and me, and without a single shred of evidence, not one iota of evidence, they cannot bear to acknowledge the grim reality, the actual truth – that they were wrong. The BBC World Service is so far off the rails it quite literally cannot recognise or acknowledge truth when it encounters it.

Perhaps the allegations are untrue. However, Plaut and his wife were in Ethiopia at the time of the famine, and so he isn't some comfy-trousered UK based writer who doesn't understand the issues or the personalities involved. And he's spoken to people who have made serious allegations - is Geldof saying that he should have ignored them?

Why didn't someone from Geldof's team speak to the programme when it was being made? Why wait until the programme was broadcast, and kick up a stink afterwards - a stink which has drawn far more attention to the allegations than the original programme did?

6Music: Thompson suggests 6Music audience great for commercial audiences

We're living in strange times, with senior BBC staff mobilising to try and get one of their services killed in the face of public opposition.

The latest senior exec begging us to let them kill it, already, is Caroline Thomson:

Thomson told an audience of media executives in London that the digital radio station, which is now the subject of a high-profile public campaign to save it, competed directly with commercial radio.

"The average age of its listeners – 37 – is at the heart of the demographic targeted by commercial radio", she told delegates at a Westminster Media Forum event.

Proving what, exactly, Caroline? That commercial radio is going to launch a station that plays The Pipettes and Field Music? That 6Music listeners will be quite happy to turn off Lauren Laverne and tune into Heart instead? What do you actually mean?
Thomson described the recommendation to axe 6 Music, which will now be considered by the BBC Trust following public consultation, as "tough". But she added: "There just isn't the luxury of closing something that no one cares about ... all the BBC services are loved by some."

To be honest, although I loved the proper old Radio 5, nobody really seemed that bothered about it closing in the way this has upset people. And - even allowing for the lack of Facebook and Twitter - when BBC Knowledge was canned, there was no sense of people getting upset. It's bad enough losing 6Music, without executives patting people protesting on the head.
She added that the money saved by the closure would be reinvested in radio, with a particular focus on digital services. Digital station BBC Radio 7 will "move towards [becoming] Radio 4 extra... with all the extra investment that implies."

Didn't Tim Davie suggest that the money being saved would be spent on 6Musicy type programming? What's it to be? Spending the money on music programming, or on an expensive rebranding exercise for BBC7?

Gordon in the morning: JLUS

Gordon's continued cheerleading for JLS goes international this morning:

AMERICANS are beginning to put their hands up for JLS.

Are they really?
The lads' track Everybody In Love got its first play on New York City's hot radio station Z100 on Monday.

Oh. So "been played on the radio", then.
It was on the playlist between big US hitters LADY GAGA and JUSTIN BIEBER.

Let's be generous, and assume that Gordon simply doesn't know the difference between "being played" and "on the playlist", as JLS are on the Z100 playlist, but nowhere near GaGa or Bieber - they're currently sat behind Pitbull's Hotel Room Service, the number seven smash from last summer.
Their track is also getting air time on a station in Chicago called B96.

Tworadio stations. The US crumbles before them.

But Gordon has yet to deliver his zinger:
Few British bands have followed THE BEATLES to crack America, so they have a hefty task on their hands.

But seeing as the boys have a five-year strategy already mapped out for them, they stand a very good chance of becoming the new Fab Four.

I don't know what's more surprising - the glib suggestion that, really, no British band has done that well in the US in the last forty years, or the straight-faced suggestion that JLS might be the new Beatles.

I've suspected that Smart's repeated fawning over JLS might be due to, perhaps, his family being held hostage or a gun being held to his head. Surely, someone employed as a showbusiness editor by a national newspaper writing something so clearly stupid can only be the equivalent of scrawling "I am being held against my will" on a napkin and throwing it out the window.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Molly Ringwald: Follow-up album at last

So it turns out Molly Ringwald made an album when she was six years old. Then she got distracted for a couple of years by making movies. And then she got distracted by... no, not even Google is capable of explaining what she's been doing since PK And The Kid. But whatever that distraction was, it's lifted, and after 36 years, there's a follow-up coming:

"I'm really excited about it. I haven't come up with a name yet but it's with my quintet that I've been performing with a lot in the Los Angeles area."

The real worry for Molly, though, is that she's now going to spend four decades struggling with Difficult Third Album syndrome.

The Fierce And The Dead - the first nineteen minutes

The Fierce And The Dead are offering you a deal. They want to get the cash together to record a proper album, and they want you to help out. In return, they're offering a nineteen minute of the sort of instrumental wanderings that look noodly, but are actually following a hard-to-spot, pseudorandom route.

Nineteen minutes. You wonder how long the album will be when it gets here.

<a href="">Part 1. by The Fierce And The Dead</a>

The Raincoats pull on The Raincoats onstage

Just announced, and pretty exciting, The Raincoats will work their way through their debut, self-titled album on the stage of La Scala. Yep, it's an ATP Don't Look Back special. May 20th, for about fifteen pounds.

Barbara Walters: "Ricky Martin should have been protected by don't ask, don't tell"

You can feel sympathy for Barbara Walters. If you were forced to try and find something worthwhile to ask Ricky Martin, you'd be hard put to come up with anything other than "so, cock's nice, innit?"

Ten years on, though, and Babs is finding her interview gnawing away at her:

"In 2000, I pushed Ricky Martin very hard to admit if he was gay or not, and the way he refused to do it made everyone decide that he was," Walters said. "A lot of people say that destroyed his career, and when I think back on it now I feel it was an inappropriate question."

Yes, that's right. It was how Ricky Martin answered one of your questions that made people wonder if he might find men sexually attractive. Up until that moment, the thought had never flitted across anyone's mind.

Equally right is the suggestion that a stuttery answer to a nosey question killed his career. The lack of having very much in the way of musical talent really didn't factor in at all. "I'd buy the sixteenth lukewarm rehash of La Vida Loca, but since he didn't give Barbara Walters a straight answer I think 'll pass."

Downloadable: The High Wire

The High Wire - you know, bright indie of the sort that used to come on flexidiscs inside single-coloured fanzines - aren't even in Texas, and they're giving away an mp3.

Sleep Tape is the title track of erm, Sleep Tape the album, which came out yesterday.

Downloadable: Suckers

The stream of well-worth having mp3s are quite thick and fast at the moment, thanks mainly to SXSW. For what makes better sense than trying to attract attention of the world at the selfsame moment as everyone else in the world is trying to attract attention of the world?

Still, in a crowded market, there's always going to be space for Suckers.

Here's them covering The Raveonette's Boys Who Rape, and making it even more unsettling than the original.

Befriend Suckers on the Facebook; an album, Wild Smile, will be released in June.

Downloadable: Kitten

It's free Kitten. But not Free Kitten. Or, for that matter, Kittie. They're only young, all fifteen year-old female singer and experimental beards and ankles and elbows and other experiments.

Download Kill The Light mp3. [Requires unzipping]

Pet the Kitten on MySpace.

Gordon in the morning: You've done this already

Gordon admits that today's story about JLS launching condoms is a joke he's run before:

Heart-throbs MARVIN HUMES, ASTON MERRYGOLD, ORITSE WILLIAMS and JONATHAN "JB" GILL came up with the idea after joking about contraception in The Sun.

The reason for running the story again just over a month after it first appeared?

Someone is apparently taking it seriously:
Since then condom giant Durex - Britain's leading sellers of the contraceptive - have got in touch and the lads have agreed in principle to join forces.

Have they?
A source close to JLS said: "The lads mentioned the idea of a Just Love Safe campaign in passing.

"It was a light-hearted joke at the time but management and Durex have had conversations about making it happen.

"Later this year they will announce their exact intentions."

"Have had conversations" isn't quite "agreed in principle", and even "agreed in principle" isn't the same as "is going to happen."

And it almost certainly won't - given that JLS fans tend to be younger girls, why would Durex be trying to sell them condoms? And even if the product did exist, how many young men would be interested in this sort of product:
The boys, whose hits include Everybody In Love, also want to colour-coordinate the range.

They were each assigned a shade when they first got together - with Aston being blue, Marvin, 24, green, Oritse, 23, red and JB, 23, yellow.

Yes, young, sexually-inexperienced men choosing if they're going to wrap their knobs in Aston or Oritse. A few would be interested - but I'm not sure they're the market which JLS are interested in.

Downloadable: Good Shoes

The generosity of Good Shoes makes their free-for-an-email package sound like a daytime TV advert.

You'll get The Way My Heart Beats, done acoustic and exclusive.

But that's not all. You'll also receive Easier, Easier.

And wait. Respond now, and you'll also get a video of the band performing Despair Came Knocking.

And, as a thank you, your package will also include a video message from the band.

Order now...

Monday, March 08, 2010

Everyone remembers D'Angelo exists. Unfortunately for D'Angelo.

It's been ten years since D'Angelo bothered the world with anything as useful as a new record, but he's been keeping himself busy.

Unfortunately, by - allegedly - propositioning undercover cops. He offered one of them $40 for a blow job; to make matters worse, he had something over ten thousand dollars in his SUV. So he's not only seedy, but he's also mean.

The New York Post reports that he's been charged with solicitation.

BPI claim that giving them money will make money for ISPs

Having spent the last couple of years threatening ISPs without any real results, the BPI are now switching tactics, trying to persuade ISPs that the future lays with charging customers extra for always-on music:

British music industry trade body the BPI estimates that the UK's major ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB, O2, Orange and TalkTalk – could make between £100m and £200m a year between them by 2013 by bundling legal download services with the broadband packages they already offer.

But hang on a minute - I've already got broadband. And I'm quite happy with Spotify, We7, iTunes and the other existing music services to provide my audio needs. Why would I give even more money to BT to expand my access to music by precisely no tunes?

"Pay extra every month, and get absolutely nothing extra in return."

Has anyone at the BPI ever actually run a business? Or met a person?

Still, how does the BPI expect this to work?
The report, produced by research firm Ovum for the BPI, based its revenue projection range on the basis of low (6,000 consumer sign-ups a month), medium (12,000) and high (24,000) levels of uptake of new legal download services over the next three years.

That sounds kind of hopeful.
The report reckons that the big ISPs could save as much as £20m a year by reducing churn – the proportion of customers cancelling their subscriptions – by offering such value-added services as legal downloads.

Except what drives churn is not the geegaws added to the service - remember when BT thought that people would love them forever if they got a spiffy Yahoo-provided log-in page? What causes churn is quality of connection - something that ISPs have little way of improving without actual investment - and price.

Adding music to the offering either means you've got to put the price up - "sign up for a more expensive service" - or, more likely, that the ISP will have to swallow the costs.

So, it's not just that the BPI wants ISPs to pay for policing record label copyright; they now want labels to be subsidised directly from ISP pockets.

And if adding music is so important to making an attractive package for broadband subscribers, each of the major ISPs would have to offer tracks, thereby meaning nobody would have an advantage, and all the communications companies will be shovelling cash to labels for absolutely nothing.

Ovum's report doesn't appear to explain why Playlouder's music-and-connectivity package was a flop; nor how Nokia's Comes With Music was so shunned by a market apparently keen to hand over millions of pounds for a web connection with tunes in it.

Embed and breakfast man: We Are Scientists

A slapping new serving of We Are Scientists: Rules Don't Stop:

[This will eventually form the heart of the new album, Barbara. Buy We Are Scientists stuff]

[via the Music Slut]

Not happening for Gene

Gene Simmons - one of the subbrands of merchandising corporation Kiss - wishes, oh he wishes that all British music could be as interesting as Oasis:

"God bless the U.K. for giving the world the music that makes all our lives better. I like Keane, I like Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand write great songs. What's missing is stars. I don't care what they do, who they're shagging, where they live... they're not interesting people."

"The most interesting people to me are the Gallagher brothers. The interesting thing about them is they're drug addicts and alcoholics and they fight with each other. That's really it."

The claim that Noel Gallagher and Liam Gallagher are both drug addicts and alcoholics is, I stress, Gene Simmons' opinion.

I guess Gene has a point - nobody is very interested in who Keane might be shagging. But, come to that, is anyone really interested where Gene Simmons lives? He might assume so, since people keep asking him to make programmes about his life. But Gene: nobody really cares.

Perhaps if you spent less time being "interesting", you might be able to write a song that - and let's set the bar quite low - is as good as Somewhere Only We Know.

[Thanks to Michael M]

Gordon in the morning: GaGa Ker-ching GrrrGrr

You'd have thought that, since Gordon was running the story about how Lady GaGa managed to make a loss on her US tour, he'd be able to bring some perspective to the doubling of prices for the extra dates on the UK GaGa tour.

But no; there are angry people to be listened to, and we know that The Sun can never offer perspective when there's a lynch mob to be listened to:

LADY GAGA fans are furious after her concert ticket prices doubled in the space of months.

Her "Little Monsters" are being charged £50 to £75 for May and June UK gigs.

Yet entry to recent Monster Ball shows, which ended in Birmingham on Friday, cost between £27.50 and £35.

Complaints have flooded her website.

Oddly, given these complaints "flooding" her website, Gordon struggles to find anything juicy to share with his readers:
One fan, Mannisrai, raged: "It's disgusting. We made both albums number one and this is how she repays us."

Another fan, Barley 142007, added: "This is steep."

And, erm, that's it. "This is steep" hardly sound furious, and Mannisrai is just hilarious, as his comment really boils down to "we were daft enough to buy the same album for a second time to get a few extra tracks, and yet she thinks she can treat us like marks to shake down for more cash for the same thing."

Surely, though, even the angriest of GaGa fans can't expect her to make a loss on the tour; oddly, Gordon doesn't seem to have found anyone saying "why doesn't she keep it to one costume change and lose the dancing lobsters or whatever she's got planned?"

Sunday, March 07, 2010

6Music: Davie regrets line of action, continues to follow it

In a bid to try and persuade a dubious public that killing off a radio station makes perfect sense, Tim Davie did a blog post. He came to bury 6Music, not praise it:

"Clearly we didn't arrive lightly at the decision to recommend the closure of 6 Music: it is distinctive, much-loved and I too am passionate about its output."

In fact, it's hard to imagine that it's done anything wrong. You know, people say to me, Tim, you'd have to be insane to kill off such a brilliantly-conceived network. But... uh, I got reasons. Sure, I got reasons.
I believe the best way for us to provide that kind of programming is by looking at other ways to find it a bigger audience.

You know, Tim, you're right. If there's a coherent body of programming, what better way to grow the audience for it by smashing it into pieces, and scattering it around rather than having it all in one place.
Currently, only one in five adults have heard of it and less than one in 50 listens each week.

Tim: it's a specialist station. This is a pathetic justification for taking the station away, isn't it?

Davie, you'll recall, has a background in marketing and Pepsi; not a disqualification for being in charge of the BBC radio portfolio, but clearly something of a handicap when it comes to assessing the cultural value of a network. A man whose sole recourse is to polling data and sales figures will always see this as being about brand, and not about art.
Yes, we could invest heavily in marketing to try to address this, but my preference is to ensure that money is focussed on unique, high quality radio, not supporting a large number of services.

So, effectively, you're admitting that 6Music has been underpromoted, and yet still gets 2% of the nation listening to it. For a specialist service.

And for that, it must be punished.
While we are re-focussing on fewer networks, we will consider how the range of music played on Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 3 should adjust to ensure we continue to offer a diverse spectrum of new and UK music as part of our stronger focus on originality and distinctiveness.

But are 1,2 or 3 currently broken and need this sort of fixing? If Radio 2 really did need an injection of perfection from 6Music, wouldn't it make more sense to kill off Radio 2 instead? And why should Radio 1's audience suddenly lose some of their programming to make space for scraps from the axed network?
I also believe it is essential that, as we re-invest the money currently spent on 6 Music, we protect some of its precious programming by redeploying it elsewhere in BBC Radio and consider how we can also do justice to its legacy in areas like new music development.

So... let's get this straight: you're claiming that the money being taken by saving 6Music is going to be spent on making 6Music programmes elsewhere?

You know, I might believe you more if you actually gave some indication what programming you consider to be "precious" on 6Music. A name, a presenter, a musical style? If you want support for your plans, why can't you tell us what these plans are?

At the moment, you have the air of a man about to knock down a building saying "of course, we'll drag the survivors out."

Nobody can see any room on Radio 1 or Radio 2 for 6Music programmes to be placed in any great numbers; lobbing, say, The FreakZone onto Radio 2 at 3am on Thursdays isn't really going to build its audience any. Nobody can imagine what your brilliant plan for these unnamed "precious" programmes is.

While Davie's 6Music plot is murky, his idea for the future of the Asian Network is insulting:
The Asian Network has offered a distinctive national service to British Asian audiences since it moved onto a digital platform in 2002. But the increasing plurality and diversity of British Asian audiences are stretching the coherence and relevance of this service, its audience reach is in decline and its cost per listener is high. While the quality of much of its programming is very high, changes in its strategy have led to an inconsistent listening experience and the national station has been less successful at replicating the sense of community which was fundamental to the growth of the original local Asian service. So we have proposed closing the Asian Network as a national service and will be exploring a number of options for redeploying its investment, including replacing it with a network of part-time local services. We believe this would offer listeners a better service - Asian Networks where they're most relevant - closer to audiences and with a mixture of locally tailored and syndicated programmes.

One of the great things about radio is the power to make people feel connected. And given that there are British Asian families in every town and county of Britain, having a national service makes sense. Davie seems to be suggesting that the only British Asians he wants to serve are those who live in places with high proportions of British Asians in the population. But isn't the value of the Asian Network in offering connection and virtual community to those who live in areas where they don't have a large physical community to connect with? Shouldn't the Asian Network have more value for a town with, say, no Bangladeshi community centre than one that does?

Either there's a need for radio output reflecting the British Asian experience, or there isn't. Davie's plans suggest even he believes there is such a need. So why design it in a way that cuts off the very people who need it the most?

Awful concepts for TV programmes: Meg On The Dole

Can you imagine a crazy world in which Meg Matthews had no job?

Actually, yes, because she's not really ever had a job, has she? So the stretch for BBC One's Famous, Rich And Jobless isn't so very great.

The programme is one of those well-meaning but fundamentally flawed programmes which take rich people and ask them to play at being poor for a few days. It's like saying "close your eyes to find out what being blind is like"; a programme which told some of the long-term unemployed that there's going to be car coming at the end of the week to take them off to a life of never having to worry about cash again. I'm sure even the second generation unemployed could mumble to sort of platitudes that Meg and co will come up with.

In fact, Meg has given the Sunday Mirror a preview of what those platitudes will be:

"This was one of the most challenging things I have ever done and made me realise a lot about life," said Meg, 43, who is now an interior designer and engaged to art professor Peter Siddell, 49. "I know I am privileged. I can give my daughter a good upbringing and I don't have the worries a lot of people have.

"I have never taken anything for granted, but now if I look in the mirror and think 'does my bum look fat?' I realise how shallow it seems."

The unemployed, you see, are too busy being unemployed to give a hoot how they look. You'd never see someone living on benefits feeling like they might be out of shape. Caring about not being fat is a rich person's privilege.
Meg says: "Unemployed people are not lazy, sitting round on their arses. Being jobless affects your self-esteem and you have to find a way to carry on."

Having a woman who... what is it you do for a living again, Meg?... having a woman who does that pat you on your head. That'll do wonders for your self-esteem.

If only all the unemployed could be kept as adoring pets for Meg Matthews, eh?
"I have been through the whole rehab thing, for depression," she admits. "I can understand how some people who have not got a job can get drawn into that cycle. You find things to fill the void, be it drink or drugs. I had seven years with Brit Pop, seven years with Noel, the sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll.

"When I hit 40 I went into a depression. I had the massive house, the Porsche, great clothes, but I didn't have someone to hug. I'd give it all away to have that relationship."

Mmm. You'd be surprised how many people living in Anfield have tried to the fill the void of only getting a few million in the divorce settlement by boozing, and then nipping off to rehab for an I Feel Sad holiday. Happened all the time.
Meg says her time on the show has made her change the way she lives. She has slashed her weekly supermarket bill, and adds: "We go round turning off lights and don't waste water."

Pssst... Meg, that's meant to be your 'it's changed my life' smugline for 'Famous And Trapped On A Melting Glacier: Celebrities live the climate change life of a polar bear'.

Do They Know What The Money's For At All?

The BBC World Service has claimed that millions of dollars intended for Ethiopian famine relief in the mid 80s was siphoned off to keep the popular civil war in weapons:

One rebel leader estimated $95m (£63m) - from Western governments and charities including Band Aid - was channelled into the rebel fight.

The CIA, in a 1985 assessment entitled Ethiopia: Political and Security Impact of the Drought, also alleged aid money was being misused.

Its report concluded: "Some funds that insurgent organisations are raising for relief operations, as a result of increased world publicity, are almost certainly being diverted for military purposes."

Bob Geldof has denied it:
Mr Geldof told BBC One's Andrew Marr show he would personally sue the Ethiopian government and spend the money on aid if any evidence was produced.

He said: "Produce me one shred of evidence and I promise you I will professionally investigate it, I will professionally report it, and if there is any money missing I will sue the Ethiopian government for that money back and I will spend it on aid.

"There is not a single shred of evidence that Band Aid or Live Aid money was diverted in any sense, it could not have been."

Apparently the 1985 CIA assessment doesn't, for these purposes, count as "one shred of evidence".

Various charities are preparing to take complaints about the report to the BBC Trust and Ofcom.

Talking to The Independent, Geldof describes the report as "a Ross/Brand moment for me" - an interesting way of describing it, as that was a disproportionate fuss over a silly misjudgement. Is Bob saying that he's kicking up a stink that isn't warranted, or that the BBC was a little bit rubbish?

The Independent report ends with this, erm, "support" for the aid agencies:
A former British ambassador to Ethiopia, Myles Wickstead, added weight to the aid agencies' condemnation last night. "I'd give no credibility whatsoever to the idea that 95 per cent of aid to Tigray was diverted," he concluded.

"It was too highly monitored, most particularly that of Live Aid. Some money may well have gone astray in Ethiopia in 1985. But nowhere nearly on the scale which the BBC has alleged."

I'm not sure that saying "ooh, nowhere near as much as 95% was diverted" is quite the same as the agencies insistence that everything was accounted for.

Given the terrible state the country was in at the time, you'd have been surprised if some of the aid didn't go awry, no matter how well-intentioned the agencies distributing it were; no matter how well-considered their systems were. Personally, I'm more worried by Bob and the charities insisting that nothing was misplaced than I am by the BBC claims of massive amounts vanishing. Even Wal-Mart can't stop shrinkage to theft, and Wal-Mart are evil.

Hit with a writ better than none? Machine, Dance settle

After Gang Gang Dance asked Florence out of Florence Welch's Amazing Musical Machine how it was that Rabbit Heart sounded so much like their House Jam, the two parties have come to a legal settlement.

Liz Bougatsos sounds almost as if she doesn't quite believe Welch's claims that one song was a tribute to the other:

"If she [Welch] would have mentioned it in the beginning, in the press, which we never saw, that would have definitely made a difference," she told BBC 6 Music. "And if she was speaking of an homage at that point, that would have helped as well."

Still, everyone's happy now that royalties are being assigned and we've all suddenly remembered that, oh yes, it was a homage and not a lifting.

Sparkleobit: Mark Linkous

The suicide of Mark Linkous from Sparklehorse was confirmed earlier today in an official statement from his family.

That Sparklehorse only released four official albums reflects unfairly on Linkous' work; outside of his private umbrella, he collaborated and produced and collaborated again.

Just this week, it was announced that Dark Night Of The Soul - Linkous' hook-up with Danger Mouse and David Lynch - would finally get a proper release. It was originally put online as an official leak, with a blank CD getting released after EMI and the musicians fell out.

During a 1996 support slot on a Radiohead tour, Linkous overdosed on a mix of anti-depressants and alcohol. The suicide bid failed, but succeeded in trapping him in his hotel room, unable to move; the misadventure left him in a wheelchair for half a year.

In 2006, Mark told Under The Radar about his darker days, and his escape route:

"Well...I got in a real...real bad headspace," he says, taking long, deliberate pauses between each word. "I just got really depressed for a long time and couldn't do anything. I couldn't work at all. I missed having the desire to do any of that. I missed it making me feel good, making music. I think I cried for three years, probably. That's why it took so long. I just couldn't work, and I became a real recluse. I never left the house."

Somewhat contradictorily, his response to those feelings was to move even farther away from civilization, from his home state of Virginia to the mountains of North Carolina.

"There had been lots of droughts, and they do clear-cutting there where they chop down all of the trees-it almost looks like a bomb hit. I just needed to get away from Virginia," he says, sounding uncertain as he describes a physical landscape that could be a metaphor for his frame of mind during that period. "I sort of ended up in North Carolina by accident. It's unlike Virginia in that it hasn't been populated. I think they only got electricity in the area in the '60s. There's a lot of unspoiled land and national forest that you're surrounded by. There's not a lot of old, old houses. It's on top of a mountain, really high up. I guess the reason that they call it the Smokey Mountains is that a lot of times the smoke, or the mist on the mountains, they look like little clouds, like the mountain is smoking. We live up so high that those clouds are sometimes under the house. Everything is named after a dead Indian there, unfortunately."

Sadly, it seems the dark has overwhelmed him.

This is Mark in action, from 1996, on an unnamed French TV programme:

Nobody knew for certain how old Mark Linkous was; most obituarists guesstimate somewhere in his 40s.

This week just gone

The most-popular March-made posts ever have been:

1. Mark E Smith's YouTube magic [2007]
2. Busta Rhymes uncomfortable around gay men [2006]
3. RIP: Jason Rae [2008]
4. Woman denies being in Kerry Katona sex tape [2007]
5. George Sampson torpedoes own career by slagging off only person who cares [2009]
6. James Blunt "without trousers" warning issued [2006]
7. NPR stream REM from SXSW [2008]
8. Cerys Matthews strips off the make-up [2008]
9. Boy George attacks Madonna's Kabbalah obsession [2005]
10. Peaches Geldof to edit magazine for TV show [2008]

These were the albums that seemed interesting for the week before last:

Enter Shikari - Tribalism

Download The Quickening

Brian Jonestown Massacre - Who Killed Sgt Pepper?

Download Who Killed Sgt Pepper?

Kathryn Williams - The Quickening

Download The Quickening

Efterklang - Magic Chairs

Download Magic Chairs

Tom McRae - The Alphabet Of Hurricanes

Download The Alphabet Of Hurricanes

Holly Miranda - The Magician's Private Library

Download The Magician's Private Library

Marina And The Diamonds - Family Jewels

Download Family Jewels

Johnny Cash - American VI: Ain't No Grave

Download Ain't No Grave

The Courteeners - Falcon

Download Falcon

Breaking News: Mark Linkous suicide confirmed

Rolling Stone has confirmed that Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse has taken his own life.

There's an official statement from Mark's family:

It is with great sadness that we share the news that our dear friend and family member, Mark Linkous, took his own life today. We are thankful for his time with us and will hold him forever in our hearts. May his journey be peaceful, happy and free. There’s a heaven and there’s a star for you.”