Saturday, September 19, 2015

What the pop papers say: The free NME

Well, it even made the news on BBC Radio Bristol, so I suppose claims that the latest NME relaunch was "historic" aren't that overblown.

But what are we left with now?

The first nought-pee NME has bagged a pretty strong cover - Rihanna, with a fairly hefty interview with Peter Robinson. It's eveb got coverage in People and other US titles, and having talk lines picked up by other media won't hurt with getting the magazine picked up in shoes shops.

Editor Mike Williams explains the choice of Rihanna for the cover:

[She] totally embodies the spirit of the new NME. She's individual, she's iconic and, as she tell us in our world exclusive interview: "I just have a way of breaking the rules".
They might have been better getting Madonna, to be honest - her best days behind her, jumping awkwardly onto any fad a little too hard and a little too late, and when your Dad spots you're listening to her he asks "is she still going?"

It's also slightly awkward that Rihanna was on (one of the) covers of the 2010 relaunch, and significantly hasn't turned up since. Until yesterday.

The claim that Rihanna is iconic, and thus like the NME, is a bit weird too, as in Mike's welcome letter it comes just one paragraph south of a claim that:
Whether or not you know that NME launched in 1952 as New Musical Express [...] isn't important (though we're very proud of our incredible history).
If knowing the brand is insignificant, then the obvious question is: why have you slapped the brand on the magazine? If the letters "NME" don't have to mean anything to the reader, and the magazine under the letters is all new, why didn't you just come up with a name that would carry some meaning?

While the Rihanna interview is meaty (and obviously next week we'll get an idea if that scale of ambition is keeping up), the rest of the magazine is quite slight. Chrvches are interviewed, although the resulting piece is two pages, heavily padded out with (what don't appear to be specially shot) photos. Space is found for a tiny box about 'other bands which spell name funny ways' that doesn't mention Pvris, and implies that they're expecting readers to be going 'isn't Chrvches a strange word').

The other feature is even more dispiriting - why Big Bang Theory is the new Friends. Now, if we were in season two of Big Bang Theory, this sort of thing might just pass; if it was an unwatched gem tucked away in the schedules, it might have had something to say. But even on E4, it's getting an audience ten times the circulation of the new NME, so an article saying "hey, they're friends but it's like they're family" is bemusing. Next week: "hey, you guys, there's a series called Hollyoaks and it's a bit like Emmerdale but with a different accent."

It's good to see Peter Robinson Versus is back - although this week it's John Lydon. Asked what he'd tell new readers about the NME, he cracks wise with "you've got a good tractor section", although his more familiar put-down of "not new, not musical, and not particularly express" is now more fitting than ever.

The best innovation is a column by Katherine Ryan - I'm going to call her the new Alan Parker as a result. Other new clutter - a page asking people what they're listening to (currently the only indication that 'ordinary' people will be featured in the magazine, something of a strange decision in the social media era); a 'good week/bad week' ladder; a games page - could have come straight from Shortlist or any Saturday magazine bundled with a regional newspaper.

And what of the music? There's only three album reviews - a few shorter pieces do little more than acknowledge they are now available; a handful of tracks. The live pages are ten big pictures of upcoming gigs. There's no reviews of events that have happened, and one of those gigs is One Direction.

The good news, at least for Time Magazines, is that there's a lot of advertising - pages and pages of live ads (why print a full gig guide when people will pay you to promote their events?). So as it's clear there's barely any editorial budget at all, economically the relaunch appears to be working.

The 1980s NME would have seen you through a decent length train trip. The early 21st Century might have lasted a fast journey between Milton Keynes and London. This new version, if your train was five minutes late, you'd have finished before you got on board.

It's not that it's slight, but - presumably to encourage as many people as possible to pick it up - there's no sense of what it is, or what it believes, or even what it likes.

It's not a great new era for such a venerable title, but on the plus side: you do get a little bit more than what you pay for.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Morrissey, the ray of sunshine, predicts death for Corbyn

Morrissey played Plymouth last night, and took the chance to comment on current events. In particular, he suggested Jeremy Corbyn might want to check his brake cables before cycling:

Fans on Twitter disagree on the exact quote – see tweets below – but all agree that Morrissey said that left-wing Corbyn's vegetarianism and opposition to both war and the monarchy put him under threat. NME has spoken to someone who attended the gig last night and who verifies that Morrissey did say this about Corbyn.
Yes, I'd imagine the All New Free NME went to great pains to verify that Mozzer said something, what with their history.

It's not impossible that the establishment might move against Corbyn - the experiences of Benn and Wilson suggests it's a real possibility - but I somehow suspect it's not going to be over his rejection of sausage rolls. Nobody is going to be meeting in a clean room at MI5 fretting that a leader who won't have a shepherds' pie is going to drag us into a dystopian nightmare. "It's not that he's going to quit NATO and dump the nukes, Commander. It's that he won't be eating a bacon bap while he does it."

Grace Jones dishes it out

Oh, Russell Harty. You thought you got a bashing at the hands of Grace Jones? You got away lightly.

In her new biography, she pretty much slams down everyone who has made music in the last twenty-five years:

Trends come along and people say, ‘Follow that trend’. There’s a lot of that around at the moment: ‘Be like Sasha Fierce. Be like Miley Cyrus. Be like Rihanna. Be like Lady Gaga. Be like Rita Ora and Sia. Be like Madonna.’ I cannot be like them – except to the extent that they are already being like me.

I have been so copied by those people who have made fortunes that people assume I am that rich. But I did things for the excitement, the dare, the fact that it was new, not for the money, and too many times I was the first, not the beneficiary.
She then has a pop at Doris:
I remember when one of the singers on the list of those who came after me first said that she wanted to work with me. Everyone around me is going: ‘You have to do it, it will be so good for you, it will introduce you to a whole new audience, you will make a lot of money’. No! It will be good for her; she will draw from everything I have built and add it to her brand, and I will get nothing back except for a little temporary attention. No one could believe that I said no, but I am okay on my own. I am okay not worrying about a new audience. If the fuck don’t feel right, don’t fuck it.

With this one, who I will call Doris, I thought she was trying on other people’s outfits: she’s a baby in a closet full of other people’s clothes, a little girl playing dress-up, putting on shoes that don’t fit. I could see what she wanted to be when I watched her doing something when she started out that was starker and purer. Deep down, she doesn’t want to do all the dressing-up nonsense; she loses herself inside all the play-acting.
Doris, I think you can safely assume, sounds like it's going to be Madge. Or maybe not... as Doris appears alongside Madonna on this list:
I still feel I could go into teaching. What is teaching but passing on your knowledge to those who are at the beginning? Some people are born with that gift. With me, the teaching side morphed into the performing side. It’s in there. And these are my pupils – Gaga, Madonna, Annie Lennox, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Miley, Kanye West, FKA Twigs and... Doris.
I think that's a double burn to Kanye West right there...

My real hope is that Doris turns out to be Doris from Why Don't You. But notably missing from the final list is Nicki Minaj.

The Dancing Baby is free to dance

Eight years after a dancing baby created a shitstorm, a Federal Appeals Court has told Universal that it needs to think things through before issuing takedown notices:

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that copyright holders like Universal must consider fair use before trying to remove content from the Internet. It also rejected Universal’s claim that a victim of takedown abuse cannot vindicate her rights if she cannot show actual monetary loss.

“Today’s ruling sends a strong message that copyright law does not authorize thoughtless censorship of lawful speech,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “We’re pleased that the court recognized that ignoring fair use rights makes content holders liable for damages.”
The baby in question danced for a few seconds while a Prince song played in the background. Universal sued with a straight face claiming that this would stop Prince from being able to make a living.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sony plotted to buy BitTorrent

Here's a strange little nugget: Torrentfreak has seen documents which show Sony was planning to buy BitTorrent in 2006.

There was a solid business idea behind the scheme (more solid than the botched attempts to turn Napster into a legitimate business) - Sony was going to use BitTorrent to provide a link between their film content and their physical products.

A little creepy, though, to admire a company's software but attempt to destroy the company through lawsuits before making an offer to buy it, isn't it?

BPI want to see the colour of BBC money

Earlier this week Tony "Memorial" Hall made a speech about the future of the BBC where he promised all sorts of entertaining, educational and informative things to come, for all the world like a man whose funding wasn't being choked off by George Osborne.

Amongst the ideas was a music streaming service which would, somehow, offer the last 50,000 tracks played by the BBC for licence fee payers to dip into somehow, and for some reason.

Clearly, Hall was just making up ideas which sound lovely, like news for North Korea and something something Royal Shakespeare Company probably on iPlayer or whatever. Nothing seemed that well thought through, least of all the music streaming.

But this hasn't stopped the BPI from running forward to demand to know the precise financial details of the half-formed idea. Billboard reports:

U.K. music industry body BPI expressed some worries about the plans. “The starting point for some of the BBC’s suggestions, around how such a service might work, involved launching such a service but paying no money for it," CEO Geoff Taylor said, according to music business strategy and information company Music Ally. "I just don’t think that’s viable."

He added: "There will have to be a sensible deal behind it if it is going to happen.”
I wonder if Geoff Taylor was ever asked out on a date:

- Hey, Geoffrey, I...
- Geoff
- Sorry?
- I prefer Geoff. It's funkier.
- Uh... right. Well, I was wondering if you'd like to go to the cinema with me sometime, maybe to...
- I insist you tell me now how you propose we fund the raising of any children which might result as actions set in train following this proposed event
- What... I...
- Tell me now, or there will be no cinema dates.
- I... uh... how about we make musicians sign punitive contracts which takes huge fees off them for services, one of which could be funding a self-important lobby group that can pretend it speaks for "music" as if it was a democratic body, which you could run for a huge salary?
- Hmm. Good plan. I'll pick you up at seven on Saturday, and we can go see The Goonies.

Tony Hall hasn't yet addressed BPI concerns, but has been heard muttering about "why shouldn't chickens be connected to a creative journalistic nexus?"

"I never touched her bottom" claims ex-radio host

Over two years ago, a breakfast show host on Denver's KYGO was accused of touching Taylor Swift's bottom, and was dumped from his job.

Now, just twenty seven short months later, David Mueller - known professionally as Jackson before the incident, and 'that guy fired for touching Swift's arse' afterwards - has filed a lawsuit.

The crux of his case is that it was a case of mistaken identity:

According to the suit, Mueller posed with Swift and his girlfriend, Shannon Melcher.

After some small talk, "Swift suddenly announced it was picture time" and "quickly put her right arm" around Melcher. Mueller jumped into the photo "at the last second."

Swift cordially thanked the couple and they left, the suit said.

After the photograph, Mueller, in the suit, said he met a co-worker who "excitedly told him about his experience meeting Ms. Swift earlier that night."

The co-worker "described and demonstrated how he had put his arms around her, hands on her bottom," according to the filing.
The lawsuit also makes reference to his lifetime ban from Taylor Swift concerts, but it's unclear from reports if he is seeking to have this overturned.

Robert Forster: Streaming Now

The new Robert Forster album, Songs To Play, is streaming over on The Guardian website right now.

This week just gone

One year ago - popular from September 2014:

1. Apple gave everyone a free U2 album nobody wanted
2. Paloma Faith misses the point of naked photos
3. U2 tell people who didn't want their album they were wrong
4. Bono inventing a new music format
5. RIP: Robert Young
6. Robin Thicke says he was too out of it to take responsibility for Blurred Lines
7. Tatu have shifted their position on gay rights a bit
8. RIP: Peter Gutteridge
9. New Pornographers on David Letterman
10. Neil McCormick, who knows Bono, explains why U2's unwanted spam was alright

These were the interesting new releases:

Suede - Dog Man Star Live

Download Dog Man Star

Giant Sand - Heartbreak Pass

Download Heartbreak Pass

Troy Sivan - Wild

Download Wild

Ane Brun - When I'm Free

Download Wild

Lou Barlow - Brace The Wave

Download Brace The Wave

Steve Earle - Terraplane

Download Terraplane

Helena Hauff - Discreet Desires

Download Discreet Desires