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.