Saturday, July 11, 2015

Bookmarks: Wolf Alice

There's an in-depth interview with the lovely Wolf Alice over on DIY:

“Everything else is practice, in a way,” agrees Ellie. “I think those early years are so important. When we look back to our first few tours, when it was playing to ten people in Warrington, that’s really special to me.” What’s led them here, though, is a sense of belief. Even when members were coming and going, when Theo wasn’t taking to his chosen instrument and when Joel was playing live drums for the first time, Wolf Alice only happened because every member realised it was going somewhere.

Grande apologises again; might have more work to do

We've tried to stay aloof from Ariana Grande's whole 'licking doughnuts while saying I hate America' incident; and the botched apology.

But we can't sit idly by while she apologises for the first apology:

She says: ‘I feel like in the apology I posted, I missed my opportunity to sincerely apologise and express how I was feeling because I was preaching about my issues with the food industry.

‘Seeing yourself behaving poorly is such a rude awakening. I was so disgusted at myself.’
You could have seen yourself behaving poorly by watching the video through before you slammed it up on to YouTube. Just a thought.

Still, she's contrite now, right?
She goes on to say she behaved out of character, and that she understands she is being judged for her actions.

The singer ends with 'I’m human, I’ve still got a lot to learn and I still make mistakes.

‘I’m not making excuses, I am here to apologise’.
You might think "I'm only human and learning" is making an excuse, but I suppose we can consider this as close to a proper sorry as we're going to get. She doesn't actually apologise; she just says she's here to do it, but you have to take what you can get.

And let's be fair to her - her actions were driven by her disgust at the American food industry and its promotion of unhealthy lifestyles.

I wonder why she started with doughnuts, though? She could have started with the soda companies, the home of empty calories.

Why would she not have started her campaign with, oooh, let's say Pepsi?
Ah. Okay, so that might be a little awkward. How about the takeaway business, though? Maybe Grande could say something about how terrible all those fried chicken joints are. Perhaps she could do that on stage at an upcoming date. She's got some dates coming up, right?
Okay. Fair enough. Maybe licking doughnuts is all she can do without harming her bottom line.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Blur hanging around

The real disappointment about Damon Albarn having to be dragged off stage is that nobody actually pulled him off stage with a giant hook, along these lines:

On the other hand, as Blur have just launched an own-brand ice cream which you can buy in actual shops, maybe a gentle hook is too good for him.

Actually, judging by the unimpressed reaction to his Alice musical, it's possible a gentle hook is beyond Albarn these days.

65daysofstatic won't be your project

Catching up with a couple of stories from earlier in the week. First, the mighty 65daysofstatic were surprised to see themselves being named on a government press release:

So recently 65days received some funding from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). This is no doubt a good thing for us. It’s appreciated and will be put to good use.

The funding was announced yesterday in a press release over at, in which we are named along with 18 other bands or artists, as beneficiaries of this public funding to help “export [our] music abroad”.

Sometimes when you list things alphabetically, numbers appear before ‘A’, and so 65daysofstatic is at the top of the list of bands and artists, and not far below a quote from Business Secretary Sajid Javid declaring that this Music Export Growth Scheme is the government “banging the drum” (see what he did there?) for music and the UK’s culture industries.

The idea of 65daysofstatic being held up in any way as evidence that this hyper-Dickensian, fucking nightmare of a Tory government is apparently supporting the arts, when in actual fact they are destroying any kind of infrastructure for future creativity at the grassroots level and plunging the most vulnerable parts of society into further misery, leaves a bad taste in our mouths. So here are some notes from us, just for the record:

• Spending public money on the arts is clearly not a bad thing. It’s better than spending it on Trident, bailing out banks, subsidising sketchy right-to-buy tactics to help private landlords get richer, and so on.

• Arts-based public spending is so often justified, as it is again in today’s BPI press release, as being ‘good for the British economy’ (“an approximate return on investment of £8.50 for every £1 invested”). This entirely misses the point of why we need to support arts and creativity in the first place.

• The press release mentions that this public funding will be matched by the music companies behind the acts. This is the first we have heard of this. Either this is accurate, which seems unlikely at least in our case because if any of the music companies we work with were actually giving us money for nothing, they’d presumably have told us about it. On the other hand, it could be that the idea is music companies ‘match’ the funding figure, but then that money is actually added to the band’s ‘recoup’ with them via a record deal or whatever. This also seems unlikely, as it would mean that, on paper, if it is ultimately the artist that is required to match whatever funding they get, then actually they’re not getting any help at all. (Unlikely, but this is the music industry we’re talking about). The third option would be that this ‘matching’ is entirely fabricated for the purposes of the press release, which would suggest that somebody, somewhere, is so scared of the wrath of the Daily Mail, or whoever, for having wasted money on something as frivolous as the arts, that they literally invented non-existent extra funds from The Music Business to give the illusion of an industry that is growing in rude, capitalist health. To make it clear that this is A Sensible Business Decision and not Commie-Liberal Hippy Indulgence. No idea which of these, if any, is true. But it is odd.

• Similarly, if they think that they’re gonna get 65 to “attend writing camps overseas to help boost the revenues that come from publishing and sync deals” they’ve got another thing coming. Presumably this is more empty press release wrangling; a well-intentioned arts-funding-proposal-writer somewhere knew what business-friendly buzzwords were needed to catch the ear of a business secretary who might understand that ‘publishing and syncs’ as opposed to ‘record sales and touring’ are the remaining deposits of wealth that need pillaging mining in the world of music. But how patronising and wrong-brained this patronage is, whereby acts are given song-writing classes about how to better grow and focus their ‘product’ in order to help grow the British economy. WHO THINKS LIKE THIS? Probably Mumford & Sons. In fact they probably run the writing camps on the grounds of their L.A mansions or something.

• The proposal that 65daysofstatic put in for this funding was based on a hypothetical budget for a hypothetical American tour. It is very expensive to tour in America, but we’ll be eventually be putting out a new album in the shape of our No Man’s Sky soundtrack and we would like to be able to afford to play shows in a country where that game appears to be receiving a huge amount of attention. (To ‘grow our brand’, in music industry parlance). This BPI funding covers maybe a third of the deficit of the budget. Meaning that this hypothetical tour still costs, rather than makes, a lot of money. Furthermore, the majority of these costs are travel-related, so almost all this ‘music’ funding will actually be going to airlines and oil companies. The rest will go to pay our crew (which is obviously right and proper) and to musical equipment hire companies. The only part of it that would come to 65 is what are called ‘PDs’ (per diems), a daily allowance for each of us to be able to buy food, coffee and sometimes, debauched rockstars that we are, extra beer and wine.
They also bring Taylor Swift into it:
But still, until musicians do start getting paid fairly (which will be never), you fear that the conversation will never move on. Thanks to Taylor Swift, 65daysofstatic will now collectively earn approximately £40 for the three months of free Apple Music streaming than we would have earned otherwise. And really, thanks Taylor, that’s cool, it’s honestly better than not-having £40, but did you know Apple only paid £12 million in tax in the UK last year instead of the estimated £400 million that they should have? If you could take that up with them next time you fancy fixing things for struggling artists, it’d be really appreciated. We’ll even do you a remix for cheap in return.
In passing, I think we'd all love 65daysofstatic doing a Taylor Swift remix. I'm not sure we'll get Apple to invest £360million for it to happen, though.

Ryan Jarman defends Courtney Love

Ryan Jarman launches into a spirited defence of Courtney Love in a blog for the NME freesheet.

There are a lot of grounds to call out people who attack Love - some are motivated by sexism; some forget that she has had a stack of challenges to deal with; just waving Celebrity Skin should be enough. Jarman's case, though, seems to rest on her being a chum:

I stayed at her place for a bit and it was such a fun time because Courtney is a total star and when you live with her she absolutely shows you that proper side of being famous. It's kind of trippy and amazing. To a newer generation of people, she still wields a lot of power because of who she was when they were growing up. She still conducts herself in the same way - she hasn't mellowed in any way. Absolutely, she is exactly as you'd expect and the way she presents herself in the public eye is not put on whatsoever.
That's lovely, but... it's not really a defence, is it? 'Don't slag her off because she's the same behind closed doors' would only work if the Love-Haters suggested she was fake, and I don't think even Courtney's strongest detractor has ever accused her of putting on an act. Indeed, many pops at her are motivated by concern that she doesn't change her behaviour when she's in public. Courtney Love has never been a woman with an Outdoor Voice.

The trouble with Jarman's defence of Courtney is that it simply ignores the missteps Love has made. Those - the throwing of bottles; the battles with Courtney Love the band; beating up David Gedge at Reading because he'd worked with Albini; tussling through the courts with the rest of Nirvana; the list goes on - are fair grounds to question some of her decisions. And those fair grounds have, over the years, become fairgrounds on which more extreme whack-a-Hole games have been established.

If you want to say 'it's gone too far' or 'she doesn't deserve all this', that's fine. But to do that effectively, you have to understand where it began.

If you love Courtney Love for who she is, and what she is, you have to understand that she's always been uncompromising.

And you have to understand that not being willing to compromise isn't going to endear you to a lot of people.

Ryan Jarman knows Courtney Love. I'm not convinced he knows people, though.

Monday, July 06, 2015

NME for free

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

NME has today announced a major brand transformation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: The stream flows uphill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man expresses different opinion; Breitbart gets excited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week just gone

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

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

These were the interesting releases:

Everything Everything - Get To Heaven

Download Get To Heaven

Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool

Download My Love Is Cool

Emily Portman - Coracle

Download Coracle

Bikini Kill - The First Two Records