Monday, 6 December 2004

Cheaper music? Blame Canada!

Not that I'll ever buy anything from iTunes - just wanted to make that clear - but if I was, I gotta say I'm glad I have a Canadian billing address at my disposal.

It seems that the cheapest place on earth (or earth as defined to where iTunes have their music shops) to buy music is Canada, where Apple have decided to price their tunes at 99c Canadian. Using the powers of exchange rate mathematics, have worked out how cheap it would be to fill your iPod in Canada as compared to the rest of the world.

With a Canadian dollar currently worth around 43p in the UK, you start to realise how rediculously cheap music can be in the Great White North, eh? When whole albums are $10.00 you're looking at a heft £4.30 for the same thing that HMV is charging £16.99 for.

Now I'm not a fan or a backer or even a buyer of DRM infected crap like these iTunes files, and I don't suggest anyone else do so, but it's nice to see Canada painted so highly in a news story. We always knew music over there was cheap as chips, now we've got further proof.

Celebrate the pursuits

Having been directed there, I've been perusing the blog called Music Is A Virus. For all intents and purposes they seem to exist solely to turn people on to new music - albeit long forgotten music, but new to most people.

In my search, among the Curve and Ned's Atomic Dustbin entries, I can across one for Canada's highly underrated cult act The Pursuit Of Happiness.

These guys are - or were - bloody brilliant and "Love Junk" was a cracker of a debut album, followed up quickly by the sex-soaked "One Sided Story" (I offer the lyrics to "Food" as way of justifying my claim).

The Music Is A Virus blog offers a taster MP3 for each album/act they feature and the track on offer for "Love Junk" is the band's debut single "I'm An Adult Now", an ode to not wanting to get old but accepting the fate and age that life throws at us.

A site like this is what the internet is all about, creating awareness of the oft overlooked and in the Canadian music, that can be quite a bit.

As a prominent Canadian once said, "Don't judge us by Alanis, Celine and Bryan Adams. We actually produce good music as well."

Update: I offer, as way of example, the track "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" by Bruce Cockburn as an overlooked Canadian classic from 1984.

Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Band Aid II (second entry not about the crap PWL version)

For those of you frustrated at the crapness of Band Aid 20, there's some comedy in sight... and you can still help charity!

The website BandAidDilemma is urging fans of real music to buy as many copies of the single as possible and destroy them, on camera, in amusing ways and send in the resulting images.

Now that's charity worth giving to with the bonus of not having to listen to the new crappy remake.

Monday, 29 November 2004

Band Aid

1984's Band Aid single was of a time, an era, a political climate.

2004's Band Aid is a pisstake and should be seen as such.

With the single's release today, many are glowing about how this latest stab at charity will be Christmas number One, thus making the world a safer, happier, more charitable place. That's without the media-created cat fight between Bono and that Darkness guy over who'll sing what line.

One of the numerous websites covering the non-event of today's single release interviewed an obviously overeager member of staff at HMV.

This hack purports that the new version will sell a million copies "if it captures the imagination like the original". With radio stations up and down the country banning it due to it's overwhelming duffness, I can only one form of imagination it's capturing.

He then goes on the further claim, "In 1984, people bought multiple copies to give to family and friends as presents. If the same happens this year, sales could even exceed two million."

In 1984, charity among popstars was a new thing, seeing people dying on TV was a new thing, the singles chart was a thriving entity, yada yada yada.

I am actually tempted to place a bet with William Hill that something worth being Number One at Christmas will.

Friday, 19 November 2004

Depeche Mode new album

For a few days, the official Depeche Mode website was taunting fans with an announcement, saying "it suffices to say that fans will be happy with this impending announcement".

Message boards and Usenet lit up with rumours - Alan Wilder coming back? Another "please forgive us" from Mute over cocking up yet something else? Appeasement from the band in the way of free rare remixes as MP3s?


The band are getting back together in January to record a new album. That's the news.


They also announced their latest victim... or "producer" as they call him. Ben Hillier will be responsible for piecing together the dregs of Martin and Dave's writing in an attempt to form some semblance of a coherent album package. If Mark "LFO" Bell's attempt behind the mixing desk is anything to go by, Hillier's better off running for the hills, the monumental unthanking task he has in front of him.

With all the repackaged material that Mute's putting out - remix packages and DVDs and such - you kinda get the idea that the new album is the band's last kick at the can.

Now if only Recoil would release another album, Alan Wilder remains the band's musical genius.

Where did all the band aids go?

With the latest travesty of music calling itself Band Aid 20, it makes you wonder where Band Aids 3 - 19 ended up. Thankfully FreakyTrigger has unearthed the dirt on the lost children of Band Aid.

One can't help that any of these alternate versions would be better than the dross that is Band Aid 20.

Still, it's going to be fun over the next six months to cross off the Band Aid 20 roster as each act fades into obscurity. Pens at the ready!

Tuesday, 9 November 2004

U2 leak

Ages ago when The Edge mislaid his work in progress copy of U2's new album, the band vowed that if it showed up online, they'd put the album onto iTunes right away... in light of the U2 iPod, I can't help thinking that was more self promotion of their iTunes deal than anything else.

Proof? Well, the album's readily available right now on the internet, but as the U2 iPod has been announced, do they really need to rush release the album onto iTunes? Nah. The postering's been done, the iPod is on it's way.

Besides, the version of the album available to download is more than likely the finished album, as opposed to the Edge copy (which is probably still under the seat of his car as we speak).

Suede bets are off

Anyone hoping the new Brett Anderson/Bernard Butler project would be called Suede are in for a shock. The duo have formed a new band and are calling themselves The Tears. That also puts paid to a McAlmont & Butler style naming as well then.

The jury's still out on whether they're upcoming appearance at Heaven will be chock full of Butler-era Suede tunes or not.

How to make money and screw your label

Pearl Jam have done it, Dave Matthews has done it, "The Dead" and "The Hip" have done it. They've all let their fans tape/bootleg their shows, hoping to create a show swapping industry.

However, most of those fans can and have then gone on to sell these shows for incredibly inflated sums of money.

Now, in an interesting initiative, Queen are making loads of bootlegs available to fans as downloads for a fiver a time. According to the Guardian, the initiative, spearheaded by mop-haired guitarist Brian May, will eventually see over 100 live shows available to fans.

No word on how much EMI will skim off the top, but it can't be much as they only own the sound recordings of the albums and singles. They've given Queen their blessing regardless, not that they could have stopped it, even if they'd wanted.

Here's hoping other bands get into the act, and fans can stop paying upwards of £20 for hard to find live tracks.

-- Link: Buy a bootleg

Copyright infringment... and everyone's happy!

Cult fave US indie band The Postal Service ("Such Great Heights") got themselves into a bit of bother lately, when the USPS - that's the United States Postal Service to you and me - decided to issue their label SubPop with a cease-and-desist order.

According to a report from the New York Times, "though [the USPS] were very, very flattered that we were using the name, they need to enforce their copyright." Not exactly the screw everyone ethos of punk.

The problem seems to have been solved with the USPS "granting a free license to use the name in exchange for working to promote using the mail". Apparently all future copies of the Postal Service's albums will mention this arrangement and the USPS will in return sell copies of the albums in their outlets.

Sometimes things do work out for everyone involved.

U2 really REALLY want you to hear their music

It seems that U2 are going to any measure possible to get their new album heard. This coming TV season in the US, they're teaming up with CSI and The OC to air new mixes of album tracks from their Nuclear Bomb album.

"Vertigo" has already been played on CSI, and no doubt in an iTunes ad during the show, and a new mix of the track will feature on CSI's 100th episode. Meanwhile, a new mix of "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" will feature in The O.C.

According to G. Marq Roswell of 35 Sound, who supervises sound for CSI, "When a group like U2, who are so notoriously careful with licensing their music, agrees to rollout three tracks on a show like CSI, that's huge."

All I can say is thank God ITV lost the Premiership, so we don't have to suffer that God awful "Beautiful Day" track anymore.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

We've lost A-peel

The Beeb are reporting that legendary Radio One DJ (i.e. the ONLY reason to listen to that horrid radio station) has suffered a heart attack and died at age 65, whilst in South America on a working holiday.

It's a really really sad event this, as the man really reinvented radio in his 40 years behind the mic. Many a band got their start on his institution "The Peel Sessions". They've gained so much cachet that of all the DJs who've run sessions on the Beeb - Kid Jensen, Janice Long, etc., Peel was the only one to have a highly sought series released on CD, cassette and vinyl.

To be asked to do a Peel Session was seen by many bands to be a sign that they'd "made it".

The man will be missed.

-- LINK: Wikipedia
-- LINK: Peel Session archive

Thursday, 21 October 2004

What the world needs now... isn't this.

With news of yet another Band Aid iteration making the rounds for Christmas Number One, I have to wonder whether we need it at this point.

Do They Know It's Christmas? was an event of a particular time. That particular time was when the record industries were more about the music, artists had longevity and music actually had the power to change and define people's lives.

Today, with music as just another commodity and cynicism running rife, Band Aid III could be seen as free publicity for the "here today, gone tomorrow" artists taking part or as some sort of overall ploy to up the sales of the Live Aid DVD hitting shelves in November.

Lest us not forget the forgettable Band Aid II that came out in the late 80s to showcase the artists of the PWL stable - Sonia, Kylie, Jason Donovan, etc.

The main difference between Band Aid and Band Aid II is probably the longevity of the artists who took place. Of the artists who were on the 1984 original recording, many are still enjoying success 20 years later, either in the same group or as a solo artist - George Michael, U2, Paul Weller, David Bowie, Sting, Duran Duran to name a few.

Of Band Aid II, the only artist anyone still can recall is Kylie... and Sir Cliff.

In 20 years time, how many of the karaoke winners on Band Aid III will people remember. Scratch that, in 6 months time, how many?

I concur with the sentiment, send money to Africa... again, I just don't concur with destroying people's memories of a simpler time.

-- LINK: Wikipedia

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

Frankie doesn't go To "Holly"wood

Hot on the heels of their appearance on VH1's Bands Reunited, ZTT Records and Trevor Horn's early-80s cash cow Frankie Goes To Hollywood have announced plans to reform for "one night only" to play at a charity gig to honour said man, Trevor Horn.

The news is marred slightly by lead vocalist William "Holly" Johnson who is refusing to play nice. It was arguments between Johnson and ZTT in the mid 80s that sounded the death knell for the Frankies and it looks like, in this case, time has yet to heal old wounds.

The other Frankies are frantically searching for a new singer to fill the old curmudgeon's shoes for the event... If only the band had had two singers back in the day.

The night will also feature other acts that have been helped or produced by the man Horn over the years, including Seal and Pet Shop Boys.

No word yet on whether those owners of lonely hearts Yes will appear, but in the case of Holly Johnson, it looks like a deffo No.

Monday, 11 October 2004

How much is too much?

There's a couple of articles making the rounds that question a number of things to do with music downloads. Firstly, there's the price issue.

An article from Always Online contends that basically to stop people downloading illegal music, legal downloads should cost around $1 each. It does seem ludicrously low and risks devaluing music, but the author makes some interesting arguments that are worth reading and debating.

The second article is from Wired. It's all about the Long Tail and is incredibly interesting. Basically put, the Long Tail is the end of the retail chain that still has fans, but isn't cost effective enough for bricks and mortar shops to stock. For instance, a CD needs to sell 100,000 units for Wal-Mart to even think about stocking it. What about a CD that sells 90,000 copies then? The Internet and the Long Tail, argues the article, go together like PB and J.

Like the former article, the Wired article harkened back to the question of music download price and comes up with a slightly more reasonable (in the minds of the labels) amount.

Do yo'delf a favour and have a good read today.

Thursday, 7 October 2004

Big day in eye-patch land

There's a couple of things in the news today music-wise and they're at polar ends of the spectrum.

Firstly, indie label !K7 have decided not only to release CDs without copy protection, but to tout the fact on the CDs and on their website. Rightly so they claim, "Copy protection kills customer relationships."

Their website furthers this by stating, "That's why, from now on, !K7 releases will carry a new logo: 'NO copy protection - respect the music."

To be fair, indie labels have had an easier time of the whole industry downturn, mainly because they haven't been releasing karaoke-winners as their priority releases. It's also due to the niche nature of the indie label, and the fact that they appeal to actual music fans (who NEED to own the vinyl or CD) more than the Woolworth-buying public that lives on "Now That's What I Call Music" compilations because they can't remember song titles.

The other news is that the BPI is meeting today to announce how they're going to screw music fans out of more money legally. Basically it involves suing anyone who's downloaded, uploaded, whistled, etc. their favourite tunes.

Deflating the BPI's bubble ever so slightly, the NME article contains quotes from lead Franz Ferdinand Alex Kapranos who claims that song swapping and P2P were instrumental in getting Franz Ferdinand the level of popularity they enjoy now. Oops.

"File-sharing is something that has really helped us as a band in getting established. When Franz Ferdinand played a gig in New York for the first time, a lot of people there already knew our songs and were singing along.

"For us it has been global word of mouth that has helped our progress, not hindered it. I don't think it is damaging musicians at all. Downloading music is as revolutionary an invention as the gramophone and I'm all for it."

Oh well, the BPI knows best. Just like the RIAA. Just make sure you're sons and daughters are locked up and kept away from the PC, because chances are they haven't taken 3-4 years of law courses yet, so won't realise that downloading the theme to "The Magic Roundabout" will result in mum and dad losing the house.

-- Link: BBC

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

What's your digital format of choice?

Most people are familiar with the myriad of formats out there for digital music - mp3, wma, ogg vorbis, aac, etc. According to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, however, the most popular format, especially for owners of iPods is "stolen". Now I'm not a tech head, but I think that this format is open source and no royalties need be paid to a governing body.

Apparently he's not familiar with the fair use clause in the US where a person is allowed to make a back up of purchased music for their own personal use (in this case for their Ipod) or the raging success of sub-standard downloads from places like the iTunes Shop. Ah to be in charge of a company and be so out of the loop.

According to today, Ballmer's almost apologised for his gaff... if saying "I don't know what I said exactly, but it was baaaaad!" can be considered an apology.

I've got no time for paid-for downloads of sub-standard quality, but I also have no time for being called a thief just because I had the misfortune to buy an Ipod. My CD collection runs into the thousands (mainly because the record industry CAN'T release a single on a single CD, ironically) and as such, I will continue to import the tracks I choose onto my Ipod to listen to when and where I want, and be damned Microsoft and this Ballmer character.

-- Link:

Friday, 1 October 2004

Sony continues their about face

Not content to admit that MP3 will always win over their ATRAC format, today Sony announced plans to dump the Copy Controlled disc from their recorded music division.

The idea of issuing DRM-infected discs always seemed at odds with the mother company, as Sony Electronics was one of the pioneers of the CD format back in the 80s. Ironically, as they didn't adhere to their own developed red book audio CD standard, the copy controlled discs issued by Sony Music couldn't bear the "CD Audio" logo.

Sony admits the change of heart is due to the public being educated enough to know that copying music is now wrong. Could be more to do with people not buying these discs as they were problematic and held no assurances that they'd work, unlike discs that adhered to the red book audio standard. Now that they've dumped the DRM-discs, Sony can assure fans and customers that the CDs they buy will work the way that mothership Sony and Philips had originally intended.

In other news, I've noticed a few BMG titles in the UK now sitting on shelves without copy control on them, where once there was. May the new JV of Sony BMG Music have some impact on this? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, it's a great day for music fans, especially with the imminent release of the new Duran Duran set "Astronaut" on Sony Music.

-- Link: The Register
-- Link: National Post

Monday, 27 September 2004

Damn you Bowie!!

Hallo SpaceboyImage via Wikipedia
Just when you think it's safe to start saving for a down payment or X-Mas or something, Bowie goes and reissues some of his albums AGAIN! This time, however, the tracklistings for the three discs in question - Outside, Earthing, and Hours - look somewhat compelling.
You could probably compile the rare stuff onto one CD with room to spare, but if you don't have the CD singles or soundtracks, these are a decently priced way to get the tunes.
Noteworthy inclusions are the promo 12" mixes of Hallo Spaceboy and the Omikron versions of tracks from "Hours..."
They're all 2 discers and here's the tracklistings of the second discs in the series:
Outside (1995)
1 Heart's Filthy Lesson (Trent Reznor alt. mix)
2 Heart's Filthy Lesson (rubber mix)
3 Heart's Filthy Lesson (simple test mix) *
4 Heart's Filthy Lesson (filthy mix)
5 Heart's Filthy Lesson (Tim Simenon good karma mix) *
6 Small Plot Of Land (Basquiat OST version) *
7 Hallo Spaceboy (12" mix)
8 Hallo Spaceboy (double click mix) *
9 Hallo Spaceboy (instrumental) *
10 Hallo Spaceboy (lost in space mix) *
11 I Am With Name
12 I'm Deranged (jungle mix)
13 Get Real (bonus track)
14 Nothing To Be Desired
Earthling (1997)
1 Little Wonder (censored video edit)
2 Little Wonder (Junior Vasquez club mix)
3 Little Wonder (Danny Saber dance mix)
4 Seven Years In Tibet (Mandarin version)
5 Dead Man Walking (Moby mix 1)
6 Dead Man Walking (Moby US 12" promo mix)
7 Telling Lies (feelgood mix)
8 Telling Lies (paradox mix)
9 I'm Afraid Of Americans (Showgirls OST version) *
10 I'm Afraid Of Americans (NIN v1 mix)
11 I'm Afraid Of Americans (NIN v1 clean edit)
12 V2 Schneider (Tao Jones index) *
13 Pallas Athena (Tao Jones index)
"Hours..." (2000)
1 Thursday's Child (rock mix)
2 Thursday's Child (Omikron The Nomad Soul slower version) *
3 Something In The Air (American Psycho remix)
4 Survive (Marius De Vries UK CD single mix)
5 Seven (demo)
6 Seven (Marius De Vries mix)
7 Seven (Beck mix #1)
8 Seven (Beck mix #2)
9 Pretty Things Are Going To Hell (edit)
10 Pretty Things Are Going To Hell(Stigmata OST version)
11 Pretty Things Are Going To Hell (Stigmata film only version) *
12 New Angels Of Promise (Omikron The Nomad Soul version) *
13 Dreamers (Omikron The Nomad Soul longer version) *
14 1917
15 We Shall Go To Town
16 We All Go Through (bonus track)
17 No One Calls
* = interesting tracks (in a rarity sense)
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Friday, 24 September 2004

John Kennedy scares the hell out of me

At the recent In The City conference, John Kennedy, the ex-head of Universal Music made a speech that terrified many. Not because of the content as much as the fact that it came over as the ramblings of a madman. I could dissect what he said, but various outlets have already done that for me, including this one.
Suffice to say, with him running the IFPI I don't think there's anyone who's a fan of music who can sleep soundly at night. How do people like this get jobs?

Can You Polish A Turd?

Looks like Noel Gallagher's put his foot in it again. Not content to flap about cancelling all manner of follow-up albums to "Heathen Chemistry" (yeah, I don't know anyone who has a copy either), the monobrowed one has now come up with some reasoning to the delay.

Speaking to Sky One, he explained that the whole reason the follow up hasn't been released yet is they weren't given a release date. Huh? They've just been sitting around recording studios twiddling their thumbs waiting for a magic, arbitrary date to actually get some work done? This is how a formerly world-conquering band operates?

Fear not however as, like a plane that's been given the all-clear to land, Air Oasis now have given a release date: "May 26. We've got a release date now, which is why it's been meandering for a bit because we've not had a date to work to because we're extremely successful."

That last bit as well, "because we're extremely successful". Does he not think they've released anything since "Definitely Maybe" (cough... "Be Here Now".. cough)? The law of diminishing returns is really in full effect with this band.

He then goes on to say that the label's attitude to the new album is, "Alright, finish when you finish", which is record company parlance for "the longer you take with the sub-standard new stuff, the longer we don't have to try to sell it to the public and can concentrate on putting out 10th anniversary DVDs and such".

Looks like Gallagher has no idea how to read between the lines, it's just a pity everyone else can.

Palookaville in Brighton

Not content to simply sponsor Brighton & Hove Albion football club, Skint Records have also managed to rename the team's stadium for the season, as a marketing stunt for the new Skint released Fatboy Slim album Palookaville.

Now fans of the Seagulls will be able to watch their team play in Palookaville Stadium while wearing Palookaville branded jerseys. No word yet whether there'll be any "Who ate all the pies? The fatboy ate all the pies" t-shirts will be available from the team shop.

It does makes you wonder how much influence (whoring?) sponsorship money actually has over football these days... just wait till the new Oasis album and Man City playing for a season in the "Dreadful followup to Heathen Chemistry Stadium".

I shudder at the thought.

Thursday, 23 September 2004

Wiki Wiki goodness

Over the last couple of days, I've discovered the joys of the Wikipedia. It's an "open to the public" resource that allows anyone to add, ammend or update entries on just about anything. An amazing resource and truly what the Internet is all about - collaborative learning.

True to form, I've spent most of my time updating and adding entries for Duran Duran, including Greatest, Rio and the Carnival ep. I've also taken time to make pitstops around the SACD and CD entries.

Truly an amazing site, and they even have some non-music related entries!

Monday, 30 August 2004

Reach up for the Sunrise!

I promised myself I wouldn't update this thing while I was on holiday, but somethings are too good not to share.

With the impending release of the new Duran Duran material in the next couple of months, I came across a link for the new video. As a fan, reports of the filming have been quite abundant, but to see the finished product kinda makes the extremities tingle just a bit.

A kindly soul has put it on a website in Divx format for all and sundry to download and watch (thus not having to waste hours and hours in front of shite music channels like I did in 1993 just to see the Ordinary World video).

Also of note is the actual track-listing of the Sunrise single (more for my own benefit than anything else):

1. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise [Album Version]
2. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise [Alex G Cosmic Mix]

1. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise [Album Version]
2. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise [Nevins Radio Mix]
3. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise [Ferry Costen Dub Mix]
4. Know It All
5. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise [Video]

Australia will release the following

1. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise
2. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise [Alex G Cosmic Mix]
3. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise [Ferry Corsten Remix]
4. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise [Peter Presta NY Tribal Mix]
5. Know It All

So again, the UK CD1 is a redundant purchase if you grab CD2 and the Aussie one. Rumour has it there's a mopping up US single coming out 28 September that should feature everything (as they generally do).


Support the French? Just this once.

Again, I said I wouldn't update on holiday and here I am. Damn.

Anyway, I was reading through ZDNet as one does... on holiday (how sad is that?) and there's a terrific article on how the French aren't gonna takes these crappy copy-controlled discs no mores.

The jist of it is the French are SO pissed off, they're taking to court EMI France and the FNAC record store chain and charging them with fraud! According to the article, "the [fraud] charges carry possible prison terms of up to 2 years for company executives, and a fine of about £24,978)." Ouch and good on ya!

How do FNAC react? By saying "it believes it acted in good faith towards consumers." By knowingly selling faulty merchandise? Are these people the Dellboy of the music industry?

They also had the gall to issue a statement saying "Fnac also agreed to give refunds to customers who found problems playing back the discs… knowing that these problems are not foreseeable." Not foreseeable? CDs are based on the redbook standard, you deviate from that you get problems. Phillips and Sony know this, they forbid these "discs" to carry the CD logo, and FNAC didn't think problems were foreseeable? That's either gullability to the extreme or the usual PR backpeddling. Either way, bring on the fraud charges, these pigopolists need to be stopped.

The other obvious question which FNAC doesn't answer is, of course, if a customer has a problem with the disc, what are FNAC going to do about getting the music in a format that the customer has use?

I borrowed a promo disc for the new Soulwax album which was unplayable on every disc player I own (mainly a standalone DVD player, car CD player and my PC). If I'd paid for this disc and had to slog back to the shop just to have some 18 year old muppet shrug his shoulders and tell me it looks like I won't be listening to that CD, I'd be seeing more than red.

These labels... they have one bullet for the customer and one for their own foot.

Friday, 13 August 2004

Two fingers to the record industry

Back in the day, the only way a band could get their music to a loving public was through the medium of record label. Beit major or indie, the label was the only real form of distribution that would get a band's releases into shops.

How times have changed. Not only are labels really a thing of the past, the bricks and mortar record stores are as well.

Over the last few years, a number of bands have taken it upon themselves to do things literally independently. From Public Enemy to Prince. Now, the Pixies have entered that hallowed club of "We don't need no stinkin' labels".

Lead singer Black Francis, put it succinctly to the Associated Press, "At the end of the day, the record company always needs content. They need artists. Right now, they need artists more than we need them. We're in a situation where we don't have to make records anymore to be asked to go into a studio and make music. Because of all the cross-marketing that goes on these days, it's like everyone's getting called to make songs for a movie, or for a web site, or a commercial."

Are the days numbered for record labels? Probably. As bands like the Pixies forgoe mainstream distribution, releasing new tracks direct to iTunes and selling CDs of concerts at the venues themselves, eagle eyed music fans will wonder exactly why they're bothering with EMI, Sony, Warner or Universal releases.

Copy Protection gripe. Again.

Borrowed the promo for the new copy-protected SoulWax album from a colleague.

The disc is completely unlistenable. Literally.

Popped it into my CD-Rom drive. It found it, but the files were all empty. Popped it into my full-on CD player (which is actually my Sony DVD/SACD player, as I don't see the need for a superfluous device I don't need) and wouldn't work there either.

Great marketing concept this: "the music they don't want you to hear".

I understand there's a piracy concern, but my greater concern was the shunting, scraping and crunching noises coming out of my £400 DVD player as it tried in vein to find anything resembling red-book comforming audio on this disc.

So what did I do, fair reader? Just what anyone else would do. I downloaded the album off the Internet. What exactly is this copy protection protecting against anyway?

Thursday, 5 August 2004

Duran Duran. They may actually release something!

With Duran Duran you never want to count on something until it actually happens, but with reports of record deals signed and videos shot, I think it's time we - as fans - can stop holding our collective breath.

The latest news from is also cause for celebration as it solidifies some of the rumours that have been circulating the Internet for the last few months. Chiefly, the first single will be Sunrise (as featured on the Queer Eye soundtrack) and the album, due out in October on Epic, will be called Astronaut, a title no one would have ever guessed that.

Time to dust off those glad rags and do a little jig. Duran are finally back, baby!

Tuesday, 3 August 2004

Drilling the point home

Not content to charge radio stations, television shows, et al licencing fees to play music, it now seems that - in Canada and the States at least - the net has now widened to include dentists offices.

I'm not sure what I think about this. Sure, if you went to the dentist's office purely for the music, then they could have an argument and it would be wholly justified.

Most of the time, however, the office is just piping in lite-FM radio stations (surely just to mask the sound of drills). These radio stations are already paying hefty performance royalties to BMI, ASCAP, SOCAN or whatever gang goes around forcing a pay up. Re-charging anyone who then listens to a radio station with more than a few people in the same area smacks of a little extreme.

The doctor in the Wired article actually brought in his iPod with personally selected tracks. I guess the next step is to buy some music gear and record a load of personally-written lite-FM style muzak, thus circumventing the royalty payments. I could just see the dentist, mid-examination, stopping to exclaim, "ooh, wait, I love this bit. Did you hear that?"

On the subject of royalty licencing payments, however, I hope the League of Magazine Writers doesn't get wind of this. Those issues of Readers' Digest from 1970 that languish in doctors' offices could net them a small fortune in unpaid fees.

Monday, 2 August 2004

Before Sunrise

According to the Mirror tabloid, the new single (or at least video) from Duran's much-delayed forthcoming album IS going to be Sunrise.

"About to release their first studio album in 19 years, the video for cool track Sunrise will see Andy Taylor filmed among 10,000 clubbers at Ibiza's Manumission tomorrow, Nick Rhodes in a spaceship, Roger Taylor in a vintage car, John Taylor on a LA beach and Simon Le Bon, above, driving a BSA motorbike along the Spanish coastline"

Here's hoping something does finally materialise in the shops and ... God forbid ... they actually capitalise on the momentum that the new singles boxset will generate.

Friday, 30 July 2004

Music for every moment

Cover of "Hysteria"Cover of Hysteria

I certainly agree that for various occasions in life, there's music to fit the mood and situation. For instance, driving down the road really really fast, you can't beat "KDX 125" by Pet Shop Boys.

Sitting here in my pod beavering away at work, I've found it rather embarrassing to discover that the perfect album to listen to whilst chipping away at the grindstone is Hysteria by Def Leppard. Not a natural selection by anyone, I must admit, but it's quite driving and perfect for just getting on with it.

Now if I could only locate my mullet and tasselled jean jacket, I'd be all set.

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Thursday, 29 July 2004

How true it is

While hunting around the Internet trying to justify my increased loathing of the iPod, I came across an article from the Telegraph. It's basically a tired bit of waffling about not giving into peer pressure, more than a stirring indictment of an inferior product, but one comment did ring true:

"There's a bit of software on it that allows you to give each song a 'star' rating. Soon, you end up only listening to the tracks you've awarded five stars to. Then, you start getting bored of your five-star playlist. So you end up thinking that, if you don't even like your favourite songs any more, your entire record collection must be crap. So you stop listening to your iPod altogether and switch to Radio 4 instead."

Does make you wonder what makes a favourite song "favourite" in the first place. I guess incessant repetition can make you hate just about anything.

The hunt continues for my justification of iPod hatred.

Wednesday, 28 July 2004

More Depeche goodness

It's been in the planning stages for yonks, but now it looks like details are firmly cemented for the forthcoming Depeche Mode live DVD 'Devotional'.

Recorded during their SOFAD (Songs Of Faith and Devotion) Tour circa 1993, it captures Dave Gahan in pure heroin/grunge mode and the band in a quandry over their musical direction - all keyboards and guitars.

According to Side-Line Magazine, the double disc will contain key elements making it a better buy than it's VHS sibling. Of note: two extra live cuts, "Halo" and "Policy Of Truth", left off the original release; 5.1 remixed audio; live projections for 8 live tracks; promo videos for SOFAD releases; and an MTV rockumentary.

For fans of the rockier era Depeche, this should be a nobrainer. Having said that, any type of fan of the band will already have the video collections, so including the SOFAD ones here again makes the mind boggle.

I, for one, found SOFAD to be a decent album, but only in hindsight with tracks like Walking In My Shoes and In Your Room standing out amongst the band's best output.

I just wish the pinnacle of the band's success, the World Violation Tour, would find its way onto the shelves.

Whose blame is it anyway?

Pet Shop Boys live in concert on October 13, 2...Image via Wikipedia

In an interview recently, Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant was complaining that the most annoying thing about internet piracy was that it ceased making the release of music - singles especially - an event.

While I agree that the term "release date" doesn't mean a damn thing these days, I would argue that, in the case of singles, the blame for them not being "events" should lay solely with record labels.

Back in the good ole days, a single would go to radio around the same time it went to the shops. The single would thus begin it's upward chart trajectory. Take "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood which went from the basement parking lot of the charts, all the way up to Number 1, staying there for weeks.

The single was released in October 1983 and didn't hit the top of the chart until January 1984! In June 1984, it found itself at number 2 just behind "Two Tribes". This is a single with a chart live of well over EIGHT months.

These days, a single goes to radio up to two months before it hits the shops. By the time you have the chance to buy it, you're bored of it. I guess one could argue that the day a single goes to radio is "event day", but I would counter-argue this is about as detrimental to the shelf-life of music as downloading pre-releases is.

Just another side of the coin.

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It's still a tuneless drone

I've read the reviews and seen the glowing praise. I've tried to listen again, but the new Cure album is still a tuneless drone. Whoever compares it with Distegration needs their hearing checked. The lushness of the 1989 classic has been replaced with a ham-fisted drumbashing, Robert Smith screaming sonic mess.

Tuesday, 27 July 2004

Yes, Delete Entry I. Can't believe. He's releasing. Another. Album

It had to happen. Voted one of the cheesiest albums of all time by people who still have their sense of hearing, William's Shatner's The Transformed Man is getting a followup release.

The new set will be produced by Ben Folds, who put his own band's new disc on the back burner to work with Captain Kirk.

Of note to fans of music from the last decade or so, Shatner will cover that great Pulp talky hit Common People, with Joe Jackson helping out on the singy bits.

Shatner previously appeared on Ben Folds' spin-off album Fear of Pop, and I do believe that is an apt description of what is about to be unleashed upon the world.

William Shatner back with a new album


Produced And Co-Written By Ben Folds, Shout! Factory Releases New CD
From Performer William Shatner -- In Stores October 5th


The Brookes Company
Jolyn Matsumuro
(323) 913-7000 x202

Annissa Mason
(310) 979-5602 x204

Shout! Factory
Stacey Studebaker
(323) 913-7000

LOS ANGELES, CA -- More than 35 years after the release of his debut solo album, William Shatner teams up with Ben Folds to create Has Been, a surprisingly pop-driven, lyrically potent collection of songs written by the duo. With the exception of “Trying,” co-written by Folds and novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy), “Real” by Brad Paisley, and Pulp’s “Common People,” Shatner proves to be a witty and self-deprecating poet, while Folds’ talent for crafting the perfect pop melody has never been more evident. Has Been will be released on October 5th by Shout! Factory.

Although it may sound like an odd coupling, the two have actually collaborated before, once on Ben’s solo album, Fear Of Pop, Volume 1, and when Ben repaid the favor by appearing in some of Shatner’s popular commercials. Earlier this year, when Shout! Factory executives Richard and Garson Foos approached Shatner with the idea of recording a new album, the actor casually mentioned that his friend Ben had been trying to get him to do the same thing. Everybody agreed and everybody signed on, and Shatner began writing. “These are thoughts and experiences of mine that very few people have heard before,” Shatner explains. “I wanted to share them with my loved ones.”

Shatner’s performances are stunning. His rendition of “Trying” is downright heartbreaking, as he depicts an absent father’s desperate attempt at building a relationship with his daughter long after it’s too late. His own droll way with prose makes a splash on “Common People,” in what could be an ode to a certain girl with a famous last name. And the album’s title track is a playful romp -- a spaghetti western score with Shatner embracing the lyrics, “Has Been.”

Remarks Folds on the Has Been recording experience, “If I thought that there were heaps of artists who were willing to be as honest, vulnerable, creativeand as trusting with their producer as William Shatner has been with me, I’d just be a producer.”

Not only did Shatner’s lyrics surpass everyone’s expectations, but friends and fans were more than willing to be a part of the recordings. Folds brought in Aimee Mann, Brad Paisley (who wrote a song specifically for Shatner), and Grammy winners Joe Jackson and Henry Rollins to contribute vocals, while Adrian Belew adds guitars and the U.K. ambient duo Lemon Jelly weighs in on “Together.” Nearly the entire album was recorded at Folds’ Nashville studio, with Matt Chamberlain on drums (Tori Amos, Fiona Apple), Sebastian Steinberg on bass (Soul Coughing), Jon Auer on guitars (The Posies), Folds on piano and bass, and with Folds’ longtime engineers John Painter and Joe Costa manning the controls.

In 1968, Shatner released a spoken word album that was clearly ahead of its time. The Transformed Man was a collection of contemporary pop songs paired with excerpts from classic literature that were thematically alike. Written-off by many as “camp,” later generations grew to see his true poetic soul and delivery, and finally understood the conceptual goal of the album. Shatner reprised his musical beginnings with the series of commercials for several years ago, sparking renewed interest in his musical career and demonstrating his knack for never taking himself too seriously.

About Shout! Factory:
Shout! Factory is a multi-platform integrated entertainment company that was started by Richard Foos -- co-founder of Rhino Records, Bob Emmer – former Warner Music Group and Rhino executive and Garson Foos – former Rhino executive. It focuses on audio music catalog development and home video/DVD projects and television properties. Conceived as a broad-based retro pop culture entertainment label, Shout! Factory video and DVD projects range from live music and music documentary programs to offbeat special interest titles ranging from animation to sports content. Shout! Factory DVDs and CDs are distributed by Sony Music Entertainment.

Catalog Number: DK 30349
Price: $18.98 SRP
Release Date: October 5, 2004

Track Listing
1. “Common People” (with Joe Jackson)
2. “It Hasn't Happened Yet”
3. “You'll Have Time”
4. “Trying” (with Ben Folds and Aimee Mann)
5. “What Have You Done”
6. “Together” (with Lemon Jelly)
7. “Familiar Love”
8. “Ideal Woman”
9. “Has Been “
10. “I Can't Get Behind That” (with Henry Rollins)
11. “Real” (with Brad Paisley)

Monday, 26 July 2004

Yes, Delete Entry Telstar lays bla

Telstar Records have finally gone bust. Personally, I thought this happened months ago, but all the papers (The Times, Sun, etc.) are reporting it as if it happened today.

Funnily enough, in events that mirror the demise of Factory, it seems the label's fate has been sealed by disasterous attempts to get Posh Spice's career off the ground, with much spent on studio time for failed recordings and horrendous costs on marketing and the like. This is similar to the worrying moneypit of the Happy Mondays that eventually led to Factory calling it a day, almost 12 years ago.

The funny thing about the whole Telstar debacle is where Chairman Neil Palmer is actually placing the blame. In an article in the Sun, after paragraphs outlining the fatally costly mistake that was the Posh Spice incident, it then goes on the state, "Chairman Neil Palmer blamed illegal internet downloading and lack of radio support for British artists."

Illegal downloads? Telstar never released any of the ill-fated Posh material, how can it be downloaded at all?

It beggars belief that the scapegoat of piracy is still being trotted out to cover a myriad of sins, mainly bad judgement at the top. Tony Wilson took his hits in stride and admitted that getting the Mondays to record in Barbados was a bad thing. He didn't have the scapegoat of music fans hungry for material to blame, and to his credit, I don't think he would have had he had the change.

Neil Palmer, you are a petty man.

SuperAudio prices

With labels bitching about piracy, I'm just wondering why the obvious unpirate-able format (SACD) is still so expensive. Searching for a copy of Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden or Colour of Spring is bringing back results of nearly £17 per disc. Compare this to the CD-only version for around £6.99 and you start to see a problem.

I can rip, copy, download, etc. the CD, but listening to the SACD layer in an SACD player brings a whole new level to the sonic soundscape. I have 101 by Depeche Mode on SACD and the 5.1 surround makes you feel like you're there and the stereo SACD layer on Roxy Music's Avalon makes the CD layer sounds like a gritty MP3.

Of course, there's a number of punters out there who don't care about sound - they're happy with a JS 128kps MP3. To them, I say, get a pair of ears. To the audiophiles (or burgeoning audiophiles) I say, let us band together and get the dumb labels off their asses and lower the prices. They could shift loads of units and the format is still relatively unpirateable... which means (for many reasons) I won't be spending £17 any time soon.

Some SACDs you might like

Thursday, 22 July 2004

Yankee doodle download

This week's Online section in the Guardian has an article about the P2P study that was recently conducted in the States.

The outcome? That P2P and downloading has no effect on CD sales. Of course, the RIAA are up in arms about corrupt data, and all that... basically anything to legitimise suing their bread and butter out of every penny they earn from McDonald's, an action deemed "one of the stupidest things in the world to do".

Interestingly, it seems the recording industry still won't acknowledge the ACTUAL reason for loss of sales - increase in spending on DVDs (according to the article, spending on DVDs is up $500m compared to the $200m downturn on CD spend... no corrolation there, then) and video games, coupled with a decrease in quality output. People are sick to death of manu-pop and there's only so many times you can buy the same remastered album.

Wednesday, 21 July 2004

And then there were four?

With news that the impending merger between Sony and BMG's recorded music divisions apparently getting the go-ahead, I have to ask, is no one else scared of the ramifications of this? There will only be four majors left - BMGSony, Warners, EMI and Universal (three if EMI's bedhopping actually comes of something with Warners).

Back in the heyday of music - I like to call it the 80s - there were loads of "Majors" - MCA, Polygram, Warner, Sony, RCA, EMI - as well as a thriving indie industry - Go Disc!, Mute, Rough Trade, etc. You see, competition was a good thing.

Now that all the indies have either gone bust or been swallowed up by the majors, who are swallowing each other up in some sort of cannibalistic Darwinian nightmare, it can't be long until music will be released by the EMIBMGWarnerUniversalSony Record Label Ltd., the only remaining outlet for recorded music.

Monopolies are good for no one, as pricefixing and stagnation of product usually is the result (cough... Microsoft...)

Thankfully, as these majors are picking themselves off one by one, stalwarts are beginning to emerge. The Sanctuary Group, known for giving a chance to bands who's time has come and gone, are becoming a huge player in the international arena.

The feather in their cap seems to be not only recorded music, but a music management division as well as lucrative music publishing. Rumour has it they've just signed up Courtney Love for a publishing deal. This may not seem of much interest as she seems to spend more time in a pile of cocaine than making music, but she does hold the key to dead hubby Kurt's music as well. With the keys to the Nirvana publishing castle, Sanctuary stand to eek out some very good business deals in the coming years.

But, to reinterate, I am concerned about the BMG Sony merger.

Mercury Prize? Who cares.

I guess the Mercury Prize noms were announced this week. Now sponsored by Nationwide building society (nice to see my "building society member money" going back to the member), here's the list. Stop me when someone interesting appears:

Amy Winehouse Frank
Basement Jaxx Kish Kash
Belle & Sebastian Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand
Jamelia Thank You
Joss Stone The Soul Sessions
Keane Hopes and Fears
Robert Wyatt Cuckooland
Snow Patrol Final Straw
The Streets A Grand Don't Come for Free
Ty Upwards
The Zutons Who Killed... The Zutons

I definitely won't be staying in to watch this award show.. wow, that's a lot of crap.

6Music rocks. TV ad doesn't.

Came across a fairly entertaining article about the new 6 Music ad featuring Phill Jupitus. Now we can all agree that 6 Music is a great station, but I have to agree, the Jupitus spot is one of the more baffling interstitials the Beeb has run.

Tuesday, 20 July 2004

In it for the publicity

This week sees U2 looking for some publicity for their forthcoming album by claiming a CD of finished tracks was stolen from a photoshoot in southern France. Reports since value the lost CD at around $10 million.

Hmm... ever seen those actresses at movie premieres with obscenely expensive necklaces (or diamond encrusted bras)? They're only worth around $2 to $5 million and the number of bouncers and security involved is ludicrous.

Now, with the U2 CD, from various reports, it looks like The Edge left the disc in his coat or something and when the photoshoot was done, the disc wasn't there. Something of that high a value should naturally never have left ANYONE's sight... the minders, the band, the manager.

As their most recent best of glaringly pointed out, however, U2 haven't released any music of import for about a decade, so to value these lost songs at $10 million is rather conceited.

Still, let's hope Inspector Clouseau and the rest of the French police force find this missing goldmine... my guess is that it fell under the front seat of the band's car... I'm always losing crap down there too.

Tuesday, 13 July 2004

Orbital R.I.P. article

The Telegraph ran an article on Orbital in their arts supplement on Saturday which could easily have doubled as an obit.

Lamenting the death of not only one of the 90s dancescene staples, but also the scene they came from, the article takes greats pains to highlight the bands career high - 1993's Brown Album - and outline when things took a turn for the worse. "Their 2001 album The Altogether was a directionless mess."

The parallels of the band's demise and the demise of the 90s music scene were easily summed up thusly, "It was time to wake up and recognise that there was no longer a dance scene, just niche markets and a leisure industry."

Orbital, just for the Blue Album we'll miss ya loads.

Monday, 12 July 2004

MP3 article

The BBC have an very interesting article about MP3s. Basically, they're crap. The only thing going for them is universal uptake.... VHS anyone?

-- MP3 encoding loses a lot of data
-- sound is tinny and compressed
-- it's a 16 year old technology (developed in 1988)

Here's the link

Wednesday, 7 July 2004

Lyrics, what luxury

BMG are striking out at pirates and trying to make nice with music fans by releasing CDs in three different tiers.

The first tier is set to compete head-on with piracy. The no-frills version will be a CD with titles printed on the disc (sorta like what you'd get making a CD-R from MP3s). This will sell for just under €10.

The second tier is a full-fat version, with cover and lyrics, which will cost €12.99. The top tier will be a luxury version with added value (additional material or DVD video) and will go out for €17.99.

It's interesting that a major label is taking this plunge. The amount of time, effort and CDs pressed for a three-pronged attack will be immense. However, for music fans who relish the "extras" (sleeves with lyrics, etc.) the offer of a choice is welcome, as is the choice to just have the music.

Time will tell how well this initiative goes, but anything other than DRM-infected Copy Controlled discs is much welcomed.

Sunday, 4 July 2004

Some girls...

Thursday night I went to see Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others, a musical loosely based on the musical works of The Smiths.

It was six actors moving around in a very abstract narrative that recalled the oddest music videos you've seen, very much style over substance. There was gun fire, poisoned wine, trapeze artistry, and black and white video footage, all set to the rather morose tones of songs like "I Know It's Over" and "What She Said".

At one point the entire troop drops into a pool of flesh, reminiscent of those photos from the wars where they pile the dead on top of each other. Like an Iwo Jima flag, a microphone is erected on the top of the pile where the last standing actor can sing "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want".

It was an entertaining evening, with a bit more sexual undertone given to a couple of the tracks (especially to songs like "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"), and the new musical arrangement - augmented by a live string section - which was second to none.

If you go, turn your brain off, enjoy the ride and just don't expect to understand what the hell's going on.

Link: The Times review

Friday, 2 July 2004

Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant talks Battleship

Hot on the news that Pet Shop Boys being the cornerstone of the forthcoming Trafalgar Square summer season, ex-journo, current PSB Neil Tennant, has penned an article for The Guardian explaining why the duo created a score for Battleship Potemkin.

Tuesday, 8 June 2004

Death Knell for retail

Since the internet became popular, nigh on a decade ago, critics and sceptics have been foretelling the demise of retail - or bricks and mortars stores as Internet wags like to call them.

Today, the BBC has jumped on the bandwagon in an article forecasting the demise of the retail record store. Unfortunately, unlike other industries - books, fashion, etc. - the demise of the bricks and mortar stores isn't down to more efficient distribution of physical product (i.e., rather a complete change to the whole delivery method.

Supermarkets are cheaper for chart material than HMV and Virgin could ever be, due to the ability to soak up loss leader losses in high markup groceries. The main problem, however, lies in the fact that the industry sees the future of music in downloads. You don't need a physical store to sell these.

Personally, I love perusing a record store - more the used ones, cuz they're like a box of chocolates. Of all the retail institutions to bite the dust, I wish it was shoe shops. I just don't understand the need to own hundreds of pairs of shoes.

Monday, 7 June 2004

Am I Desperate?

On the weekend I stumbled onto the website for the band Client. I've been there before, but like most band websites I don't go back unless prompted by email or newsgroup message to some wonderful new piece of content there.

This time, it was the promise of streaming remixes for their new single In It For The Money. A few minutes later (and with the aid of an audio capture program) I had the 12" only mixes in glorious MP3 format. Not the greatest quality, but better than the alternative.

Anyway, I digress.

While perusing the site I came across a most interesting area. For Client's last album, there were a number of 12" and promo only remixes that were made. It seems someone at Toast Hawaii (or Mute) came up with the great idea of making these promo mixes available for download.

There's nine promo mixes and you can either pic'n'choose the tracks at 1 quid each or take the whole "remix album", called Going Down, for 5 quid. The whole package even includes a booklet you can print off.

Not only is this cheaper than buying said product in HMV - if it were available - it's also a great use of the download platform. For two long I have lamented these online stores selling the same old dross you can get in record stores, ignoring the hard to get material. I'm not a huge fan of the DRM-infected download, but the package is intriguing.

More of this and I may be pursuaded to change my ways. After all, it's about getting the music and not forking out hundreds of pounds to eBay bandits for a promo CD single with one exclusive remix.

Friday, 28 May 2004

Whoring causes meningitis. Fact.

It looks like all the whoring (aka publicity) that Morrissey has been forced to do to get his latest album You Are The Quarry to No. 2 in the UK charts has taken its toll on the man. This week he was to perform a residency on Craig Kilborn's late night CBS show (DVD recorders at the ready!) but just before he was due to go to the studio to tape his songs, Kilborn's show was told Mozza wouldn't be able to make it as he'd contracted meningitis.

Now Kilborn's not like going on Oprah. The man is truly a fan of Mozza. Back last October he had the Pope Of Mope on two nights in a row after trying to track him down for months. Mozza performed early versions of songs that now appear on You Are The Quarry, and the entire week leading up the appearance, Kilborn was plugging it with Mozza and Smiths songs playing during the commercial interludes.

To slap him in the face like this is similar to the indifferent air he displayed on the Johnathan Ross show (Wossy's also a huge fan).

I understand Mozza's an intensely private person, preferring to communicate with his seven friends via fax, but in the cut throat business of music, you either get yourself out there, or suffer the fate of Maladjusted, Mozza's 1997 album that did absolutely nothing.

Jewel's crazy as a fox

Jewel seems to be falling of the far end of a short pier, mentally.

who's crazy bitch, then? The folky singer-songwriter lost it in front of an audience recently at a gig in New Hampshire, dubbed the "worst concert ever" by "fans" (or were before the concert). First she asked the crowd for requests before telling them to "shut the hell up".

If that's not weird enough, she then started picking on people because of their weight and told them to stop looking at her teeth and focus on her breasts. Not one to do things half-way, she continued her tirade by saying she's seen a "better audience at a barroom brawl and that all drinkers and smokers were sinners."

All this before she left the stage early only to give an encore consisting of several minutes of yodelling.

Funnily enough, fans who shelled out loads of money didn't see the funny side and demanded their money back and yelled obscenities at her tour bus.

With Courtney Love in rehab it's nice to see celebs melt down in public. Where's Mariah Carey when you need her?

Thursday, 27 May 2004

Hell IS about to freeze over

It was with a real sense of worry that I read an article in the Independent this morning about the rise and rise of ringtones as an actual cultural force.

Basically, there's an army of 16 years olds out there so desperate to impress their classmates that they'd rather pay £3 for a MIDI version of some chart hit (read as One Hit Wonder, as most of today's chart music is), rather than own the CD single with artwork, video clip, remixes or b-sides for between £1.99 and £3. Most importantly the CD single would actually have the WHOLE SONG.

Are these people insane?

Very likely.

To add insult to injury, ringtones are being given a further level of legitimacy next week when Music Week begins publishing a Top 20 chart. Hurrah. Can't wait till "Now That What I Call A Ringtone 51" comes out in shops.


Ringtones are to music like cigarettes are to beer. Those of you who have done IQ tests should get the gist here.

Ringtones and cigarettes both affect and annoy the hell out of people around them, and only bring joy to own person - the owner. Beer, like a CD is (or can be with a CD walkman) a solitary experience that benefits the owner and doesn't annoy the hell out anyone.

People claim the whole point of ringtones is to show off your musical preference or your character (or how much you like to annoy those around you?) and shouldn't be considered a personal experience like listening to music.

Well, there's a scene in 1986's "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" where an annoying punk on the bus is blaring a boombox with some loud song. Mr. Spock does the Vulcan neck pinch on him and he drops faster than Oprah's jaw on a cream cake. Replace boombox with ringtone and you can easily transport that scenario 18 years into the future.

By definition the telephone IS a personal experience. No one else cares if Johnny kissed Samantha behind the bikeshed while Jenny was in Wales on holiday. "No, but yeah, but no, but yeah." Likewise, a friggin' ringtone should also be a personal experience. Your phone rang, deal with it.

Thank God the underground hasn't got mobile repeaters yet. The last sanctuary of the ringtone-hating individual.

Legal Download site problems

Perusing the newly launched legal Napster, I came across an intrinsic problem with the new world of legal downloads - that of being mercilessly ripped off.

I know people will download the songs they want, but there's also a contingent of people who want value for money so will go after the "The End"s of the musical world or "Tubular Bells Part One" (both exceedingly long tunes) as opposed to something like The Residents' Commercial album (60 songs, each exactly 30 seconds long).

My specific perusal let me to the random search for Jeff Buckley's "Live At Sin-E" Legacy Edition release. Decent album, full of early versions of songs from Grace as well as witty banter with the folks in the coffee shop.

Problem is, every track is 99c - from the 15 second "Monologue: Cafe Days" to the 11 minute rendition of "Dink's Song". If you had limited resources would you pay $10 for a few minutes of monologues or 50 minutes of long songs?

Pricing structures like this will naturally make music fans gravitate away from being completists - who would buy whole albums with such short tracks, where most of the time (in this case) it's just Buckley saying things like, "are you having a good time tonight?" "Well at 99c, no, I'm not Jeff."


If the album is to continue to live, as I've stressed before, a financial model for making the entire album a desirable proposition has to be found. With the case of Live at Sin-E, I can buy the Legacy Edition for 13 quid. Downloading it's 30 odd songs at 99c... well, doesn't take Stephen Hawking to tell you you're getting fleeced.

Then there's the case of the packaging. I've already got the whole Live at Sin-E Deluxe Edition album in MP3. I really dig the Legacy Edition packaging and want the bonus DVD, the 24 page booklet and whatever other tasties that come with it. There's more to the music experience than just listening (hence the 74 page book that came with the Cure b-sides boxset, but alas that's another story).

Monday, 24 May 2004

Number Two for Mozza

Mozza was held off top spot in the chart wars this week by a band called Keane. Dunno if they're named after the Man U ruffian or not. More to the point I don't care.

Congrats to the Pope of Mope, though. Looks like all the slogging around the chat shows paid off. This week, it's America's turn as Mozza does a residency on the Craig Kilborn show every night this week (keep an eye on BitTorrent sites, if you don't live in North America!!)

In similar news, "Irish Heart, English Blood" fell out of the top 3 and landed at number 18 this week. If you still haven't got this single, hunt down the North American release as it collects all the tracks on ONE CD (i.e. all the b-sides together on one disc) ... see elsewhere for my ranting about the hacked state of the UK single industry.

AND.. if you haven't lately, check out The Smiths' "Strangeways, Here We Come". For a swansong, this album can't be beat. Might be a bit more mainstream than their previous three albums, but there are so many excellent gems on here - both lyrically and musically. You also get to hear an extended piano "solo" from Mozza. Now that IS a bargain!

Friday, 21 May 2004

From the ashes rises the phoenix

It was on the cards for ages, but this week one of the big name digital music shops finally opened in the UK. Napster, once the scourge of record labels everywhere, has risen phoenix-like from the litigation fires to beat rival iTunes to the "who will open a UK shop first?" punch.

Still, the prices are rather steep for tracks. 99p/track, if you're a subscriber or £1.09 if you're not. At current exchange rates that equates to a lot more than our American breathren are forced to shell out.

Napster boast a catalogue of over 700 000 tunes, but the safe bet is that tracks diehard fans are looking for - obscure remixes or b-sides - will continue to allude them.

Anyone who reads this will know what I think of these digital abhorations. However, if I can finally aquire Sheps' House Mix of "Always On My Mind" by the Pet Shop Boys for 99p, it might be worth it. The alternative, around £100 for the 3x12" club promo of Introspective.

Now that's a worrying pricing structure.


Songs stuck in your head

Woke up this morning with one of those songs in your head you can't shake. All morning I've been whistling, humming and singing "California" by Phantom Planet and like an unwelcome guest it just won't leave.

On top of that, I've got a pressure headache from an impending illness to contend with as well, so you see how it's scum.

As a footnote, Plaid (who's "Scoobs in Columbia 2" I'm listening to while writing this) is not helping get "The O.C." theme out of my head.

Tuesday, 18 May 2004

Albums only = more money

News is coming out that the record labels want online digital music shops to only sell albums.

How interesting.

I made the point ages ago that with the advent of buying by the song, the filler (aka "album tracks") that usually creep onto an album will never be bought and it will harder and harder to justify signing acts to record anything more than the chart-centred songs that actually sell.

Sure, diehard fans will buy the album tracks, but the average fan (read as: those who only buy Now 55 and the like) won't. The only reason they buy a bnad's album at the moment is... well, I'm not sure. I'd buy a single from a band if I only liked one song - at least you get a b-side or a remix or something.

Under the new regime, I can really see the days of the album and the Greatest Hits compilation being well and truly numbered. Obviously, so can the labels who are putting pressure on Apple's iTune Store and others to scrap song-by-song purchasing.

The register make some salient points on this argument:

If people are to get into the habit of owning an awful lot more music, then it is essential that playlists drive the model, not albums. Customers want "type" or "genres" of music to sit together to create mood. They do not want all of a recording artists' work played in one block, and they don't want to be forced to buy it that way either. And what seems ridiculous to us is that all music, regardless of age, should be charged at the same rate.

The distilled point you can take away from this argument is that as long as the record industry has something the consumer wants, they'll try as hard as hell to screw the consumer over.

Wednesday, 12 May 2004

Sad Day - 3MV R.I.P.

It with a heavy heart that I read this week about the demise of that venerable indie distributor 3MV. Along with Pinnacle, they've kept the independent scene alive in the UK. It's truly sad to see not only the end of this venerable institution, but also the financial hit to its indie label creditors.

This isn't the first time the indie sector's been rocked. Rough Trade's distribution arm went kaput a few years ago, causing all sorts of havoc. The industry recovered from that. These days, however, most of the indie heavy hitters are now owned by majors - Food, Creation (assets anyway), Mute.

The last thing the industry needs in an age of decreased spending is to have one of their most useful arms severed and buried.

From another site:

Dave Trafford and Max Kenny of 3mv have confirmed today that the company has ceased trading.

3mv represent an exclusive roster of the UK's independent labels including Rough Trade, V2, Ministry Of Sound, Hed Kandi and Gatecrashe - whom offered a fully integrated service including 'digital' sales and marketing and label management.

In a statement issued this afternoon the two directors have announced they are taking advice from David Rubin and Partners and that a creditors meeting has been scheduled for the end of April.

"3mv is a victim of the diminishing margins in sales and distribution. The market has grown tougher and the business model that has previously worked for us is viable no longer. Our situation has been compounded by the loss of a number of key clients in the last year. It's a very sad day for Max and myself, the whole team at 3mv, our roster and the independent sector as a whole." said Trafford in the statement.

Dear God why?

Today I was in Virgin Megastore in Kensington, purchasing the 7th Strict Machine disc (Goldfrapp) I've owned, and I noticed something I didn't think possible. The person in front of me actually paid £16.99 for a CD... I've seen the price tag on CDs in the shop, but c'mon - people actually PAYING that? Get out!

If more people act like this, the record label will definitely get the wrong idea - that we'll pay anything for CDs. Then it will be illegal downloads for everyone.

Please, just like roadkill, if you see a CD for £16.99 just look at it and move on. Don't pick it up and try to breathe life back into it. It ain't gonna happen.

Monday, 10 May 2004

There is a God!

Reading through The Digital Spy, it looks like there's another casualty in the talent-free zone.

Poor spike-haired crooner Gareth Gates will have to go back to singing in karaoke bars to make a living. Thankfully, BMG have terminated his contract. Although, I wonder how they'll ever have enough material to compile that Best of Gareth Gates in about 12 years times (still, doesn't look like that stopped Peter "one hit wonder" Andre from getting a full CD's worth of Greatest Hits released recently).

Hopefully the era of armchair record label A&Ring is coming to an end and labels start releasing decent material again... soon.

Monday, 26 April 2004

Blame Canada? An American would have to find it first

It's great to see that Canada is finally putting themselves on the map. Unbending in their ways, Canadian law has made it legal to download and share music via P2P services. This must be infuriating that ragtag bunch of annoying lobbyists called the RIAA. Their Canadian comrades, the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association), have done everything to get the Canadian government to outlaw the evil P2P sharing system, but the legislation that's in place to make it legal is down to the CRIA.

Ironic losers.

Here's the 411. Back a few years ago, the CRIA realised that musicians were losing money to CD and tape copying. They therefore lobbied for the government to put a surcharge (or levy or the so-called "copy tax") on recordable media - including tapes, CDs, and flash memory and hard drives used in audio devices like the iPod. The effect of this? You're already paying to be a criminal, might as well act like one.

Aside: The problem with this? Most of the money from the levy goes to big-league artists like Bryan Adams and Celine Dion who really don't need it. Fringe artists who don't sell a lot and would benefit from this kinda cash don't really get a look in.

In a recent Canadian ruling, a judge went on to state: "I cannot see a real difference between a library that places a photocopy machine in a room full of copyrighted material and a computer user that places a personal copy on a shared directory linked to a P2P service."

A similar argument was made about Sony's Betamax machine in the early 80s. It wasn't a source of piracy then, and the inevitable source of revenue from home video (be it Beta, VHS, LD, or DVD) placed a shed load of money into the coffers of the entertainment industry that can't seem to see further into the future than next week.

Glad to see that one piece of dire legislation is putting the knife into the potential for another.

Monday, 5 April 2004

Downloads a-go-go

"Is downloading really bad?" Today the Guardian got in on the debate, publishing a harrowingly badly-written article on whether or not the record industry is right in their prosecution of the hand that feeds them.

Quoting again the Harvard report that rather scatalogically makes the point that downloading ain't all bad, the report also pulls in quotes from industry types like Dave Rowntree, drummer for Blur and spokesman for some acronymed group noone can remember.

It's good to see that people aren't swallowing the crap pill the BPI is shovelling down our throats, and are actually fighting their claims. The only fear I still have is for the used record store. A march down Berwick Street in Soho is like a march down death row. They're not dead yet, but the final meal can't be too far behind.

Cheap Downloads

Not that I condone wasting money on DRM-infested MP3s, but if you are into that kinda thing, it seems upstart Wippit are throwing the first punch in what looks like a very mucky price war.

These files have generally been selling for around 99c (60p) in the US - via sites like iTunes' iShop. In the UK, the conventional wisdom has been to replace the 'c' with a 'p', thus harvesting almost 100 of your British pence for 60p's worth of digital file.

Enter Wippit.

Never the strongest or most widely known product - certainly not up there with Napster or Coke (who run They have lit the flames of a price war by charging folk 29p per file.

Is this good? Time will tell. For every forward thinking initiative in the music world, there's some pigheaded curmudgeon in charge of something he shouldn't be who's intent on making sure nothing productive ever gets done.

In some ways, I hope this works out well. In others, I doubt I'd ever pay for a downloadable file like this, because of the DRM infection and the fact that they're putting my favourite haunts out of business. How exactly do you buy a used album this way?

"Long way from home"

Ah Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Never my favourite 80s band - that would be Duran Duran - I do have a real soft spot in my heart for the scouse five-piece that imploded after two wildly different albums.

Thus it was really nice to see VH1's recent Bands Reunited series focus an episode on getting Mark, Ped, Holly, Paul and Nash back together again for a chat and hopefully a tinker on the old instruments.

That the performance didn't happen was an absolute shame. The look on over-eager Paul Rutherford's face near the end of the show said it all - abject disappointment. This is a man who dropped everything and flew half way round the world to take part in the VH1 episode.

One thing from this episode, you wouldn't believe how old the guys look now. Most are balding and/or greying and look ripe for what middle age has to offer. Compare to contemporaries like Spandau or Duran or even the Petties, who have obviously gotten older but not so extremely.

I realise it could be something to do with the Frankies having been out of the limelight for 17 years and being frozen forever in the collective consciousness in their mid-20s, but it was a bit jarring to say the least.

Even with claims of extreme manipulation from their record label ZTT, the episode has influenced me to have a Frankie day on the old CD player.

Rage hard indeed!

Thursday, 1 April 2004

EMI scapegoating

What fortuitous times we live in. EMI announced yesterday that they're cutting loads of underperforming acts and chopping staff across the board. The reason? Internet piracy. What dross.

As recently pointed out, file sharing has had absolutely no tangible impact on CD sales. For one thing a lot of the material downloaded simply wouldn't have been purchased by the downloader to begin with, so where's the lost income?

I can remember back in the heady days of Napster playing the game of "Download the cheesiest song from the 80s". This is potentially a P2P-only game as I would never have forked over even 1p to buy a copy of Spagna's 'Call Me' or any of the other groan-inducers we used to while away the quiet times in the office.

Not to hark on again, but these labels really only have themselves to blame. The MP3 format has been around for almost a decade, PCs capable of sound have been around almost as long and the forces of alternate media (i.e. alternative places to spend your money) have been around as long as music. Books, the cinema, console gaimg, increasingly Sky packages and (recently) DVDs.

You can only cut the pie so many ways and to make it sweet enough to eat. The music industry seems to be sitting on their laurels, releasing utter crap and not really appealing to the music fans, and their slice of the cake justifiably seems to taste more bitter these days.

EMI, your days may be numbered, but you saw the writing on the wall and refused to act. Don't blame the general public for your lack of foresight.