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 Silicon.com 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: Slashdot.org

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