Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Seven and the ragged Duran Duran announcement

Hot on the heels of the two disc reissue of Duran Duran's Rio, the band announced today that Seven and the Ragged Tiger is get a similar treatment. Coming March 2010, it may not be released in time for Christmas, but for fans this news is an awesome Christmas present.

Similar to the Rio reissue, Seven mops up loads of tracks released around the time of the original album release. In this case, it also includes the tracks around the "Is There Something I Should Know?" single campaign, that actually featured on the re-issue of the debut album.

The EXCELLENT news portion however is that the limited edition release with be three discs. The third disc is a DVD of "As The Lights Go Down". This has been requested from fans since Duran Duran product originally appeared on DVD back in the day. For the uninitiated, it's basically the band's concert movie "Arena" without the movie bit.

The DVD is fleshed out with era videos (including the 17 minute movie version of "New Moon on Monday" which was previously an Easter egg on the "Greatest" DVD) as well as clips of the band on top of the pops.

This is truly setting out to be an awesome release for fans, and with the Arcadia reissue booked, and a Mark Ronson produced album almost ready, 2010 is shaping up to an awesome year.

Seven and the Ragged Tiger limited edition 3 disc set tracklisting

CD 1:
Original album
1. The Reflex (5.28)
2. New Moon On Monday (4.18)
3. (I’m Looking For) Cracks In The Pavement (3.39)
4. I Take The Dice (3.15)
5. Of Crime And Passion (3.50)
6. Union Of The Snake (4.20)
7. Shadows On Your Side (4.03)
8. Tiger Tiger (3.20)
9. The Seventh Stranger (5.23)

CD 2:
Non album singles and B-sides
1. Is There Something I Should Know? (4.11)
2. Faith In This Colour (4.07)
3. Faith In This Colour (alternate slow mix) (4.06)
4. Secret Oktober (2.45)
5. Tiger Tiger (Ian Little remix) (3.25)
6. The Reflex (single version) (4.25)
7. Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) (Live) (4.54)
8. New Religion (live at the LA Forum 9/2/84) (4.52) Tape no: 48375
9. The Reflex (live at the LA Forum 9/2/84) (5.52) Tape no:  "

10. Is There Something I Should Know? (Monster Mix) (6.40)
11. Union Of The Snake (Monkey Mix) (6.21)
12. New Moon On Monday (Dance Mix) (5.59)
13. The Reflex (Dance Mix) (6.35)

As The Lights Go Down

Intro: Tiger Tiger (1.26)
Is There Something I Should Know? (4.41)
Hungry Like the Wolf  (4.03)
Union of the Snake (4.12)
New Religion (5.34)
Save a Prayer 20.11
The Seventh Stranger (5.00)
The Chauffeur (5.19)
Planet Earth (4.35)
Careless Memories (4.23)
Girls On Film (6.16)

The videos
Is There Something I Should Know?
Union Of The Snake
New Moon On Monday (E.P Version)
The Reflex

Bonus video
New Moon On Monday (movie version) (17.27)

Top Of The Pops performances
Is There Something I Should Know? 23/3/83
The Reflex 26/4/84

Friday, 4 December 2009

Vinny Vero's Pet Shop Boys Christmas gift

NYC DJ and remixer Vinny Vero was recently commissioned by EMI to do some remixes for Pet Shop Boys' "Beautiful People." As he mentions on his blog, due to time constraints it was never going to happen.

With it looking less and less likely that EMI are going to release his efforts commercially, Mr Vero has decided to post the three mixes he's done on his blog, as a Christmas present for his fans.

These tracks are top quality. In his blog he discusses his idea of Pet Shop Boys remixes that stand the test of time, the ones that retain a majority of the song. The single and club mixes he's created thus stick to that ethos. The third mix is a mash up between "Beautiful people" and A Guy Called Gerald's "Voodoo Ray". Aptly titled "Beautiful voodoo" it works remarkably well.

On top of the Christmas present download, Vero's also written a passionate entry about Pet Shop Boys in general, touching on his work with them in the 90s, remixing the US only single "To Step Aside", and touching on the incredibly inept way EMI marketed the Boys' latest album "Yes," including the decision to not release "Did you see me coming?" as a summer single, and have third single "Beautiful people" be German only.

It's a great post if you're looking for top quality free music, and it's a great post if you're looking for a good read.

iTunes friendly download (30MB)
FLAC (110MB)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Royalties and the Unrecouped

Tim Quirk, ex of the 90s band Too Much Joy has recently posted a blog about the luaghable royalties his band recently were awarded for digital play back by their label Warner Music.

It makes for compelling reading, not only about the lackadaisical inner working of the recording industry, but also about life as a member of an "unrecouped" band (one that never earned enough to pay back their advance, thus aren't entitled to any payout from the label), $10,000 accountancy errors and fiscal irregularities and how an industry so rife with inner turmoil can actually take the public to task for piracy.

It may be a longish read, but it's a worthwhile read.

Again, the only reason Quirk actually got his royalty statement is because he now works for Rhapsody and knows what they pay the labels for digital streaming. I guess he was curious how much HE would actually get out of the deal.

In recent weeks Lady Gaga was in the press complaining about her Spotify royalty payments. The fact that Quirk released three albums and still hasn't made enough to be considered a recoupable artist, I imagine Gaga is lucky to get anything. 

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Saturday, 21 November 2009

Lily Allen proves she has no clue

The argument against P2P and file sharing of music is the people who need to get paid don't... or something akin to that (any further into this line of thinking and it's an artist vs record label discussion instead).

Lily Allen, the RIAA's poster girl for non-illegal downloading activities has done a complete howler. According to the NME, it's not piracy or illegal downloads she actually cares about - it's someone placing a value on her music.

In what has to be one of the biggest gaffs in recent history, Allen has gone on record saying, "If someone comes up with a burnt copy of my CD and offers it to you for £4 I haven't a problem with that as long as the person buying it places some kind of value on my music."

So don't pirate songs for free, charge your mates for the privilege and Lily will back you all the way. I wondered at the outset of her crusade whether she actually "got it" and this really just confirms she didn't.

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Thursday, 5 November 2009

Pet Shop Boys christmas ep coming

Score one for Twitter. The synth pop duo announced details earlier today of their forthcoming Christmas EP, released December 14th through Parlophone.

Tracklisting as follows:

1. "It doesn't often snow at Christmas" - new version produced by Marius De Vries and PSB.
2. "My girl" - cover of the Madness song produced by PSB.
3. "All over the world" - new version produced by Marius de Vries/PSB.
4. "Viva la vida"/"Domino dancing" medley. Studio production by Stuart Price.
5.  "My girl (our house mix)" - produced by PSB.

Should be a must buy on a few levels, including the first commercial release of "It doesn't often snow at Christmas" and possibly the first Coldplay song it's been okay to like!

The EP will be released on CD and download next month.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Frankie say... no more!

Loading up Spotify tonight I was elated to find that some of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's material was finally available. However, I was horrified to find yet ANOTHER "best of" as one of the albums available (interestingly, the band's debut album Welcome to the Pleasuredome is NOT available yet on Spotify).

Don't get me wrong, compilations - especially hits collections -  from bands form a very necessary role - they can get new fans interested, they can provide material otherwise unavailable (the between album single or a 7" only remix) and they can provide bands a stop gap breather period between studio albums.

Frankie Say Greatest doesn't seem to fulfil many of these points. The band broke up 22 years ago and only released two studio albums.

At current count, there's 4 greatest hits album - 1994's Bang... The Greatest Hits, 2000's Maximum Joy, 2003's Rage Hard: The Sonic Collection and now in 2009, Frankie Say Greatest. That's a lot of greatest hits for a band that only released seven singles.

This release features a second disc with bonus remixes and rarities. Let's face it though, if you have any of the other compilations like Twelve Inches, The Club Mixes, Reload - The Whole 12 Inches or any of the plethora of reissued singles you will have all these remixes already. The non-remixes are quite intriguing, only for the track "Our Silver Turns To Gold," a previously unreleased song demoed at Mediterranean Studios in 1985.

Still, one track doesn't not warrant an album purchase. Especially in the era of iTunes.

As with the 1994 and 2000 hits collections, this time around "Relax" has been released AGAIN as a teaser single with 2009 remixes. A couple of these - by Lockout and Chicane - find their way onto the album as bonus material. Whether we'll get a full single re-issue like in 1994 and 2000 is anyone's guess.

Frankie aren't the only band to receive the business end of a label's greed. The Police have notoriously been reissued over the years. Their Every Breath You Take: The Singles was famously reissued a few years later as a completely new compilation called Every Breath You Take: The Classics. At least ZTT have chosen new names for each subsequent Frankie best of.

I'm excited Frankie are on Spotify and that I can finally listen to them. I'm happy Trevor Horn is clawing back some more of the money he lost on the Frankie experience. I'm not happy one of my favourite bands of the 80s is still being exploited 25 years later.
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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

File sharers spend big

Does it come as a surprise to ANYONE the recent news that the most prolific music file sharers are also the most prolific spenders?

In a recent BBC news report on file sharing which discusses a recent survey conducted by MORI, it states that the average file sharer also spends an average of £77 a year on paid for music.

Is that it? In my music buying heyday, I used to trot off to Berwick Street and spend around £80 EVERY Saturday. I had some awesome stuff to show for it too - promos, bootlegs, rare deleted releases.

However, this really rings true for me. Most people who have a passing interest in anything maintain just a moderate level of interest. If you're not a diehard U2 fan, are you really going to take the time to find and visit file sharing sites, when iTunes is right there?

The problem with legit outlets like iTunes is they still don't have all the variations of a release that a fan might want. Take the Voxigen remix of "I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing" by Pet Shop Boys. I scoured the shops for months searching for this. The CD this was on was only released in Holland, and to acquire it would cost me around £40 (if I could ever find it). Of this £40, neither the label nor the band would see a penny of this. This remix has yet to show up on any legit download site.

This new news about file sharer spending further muddies the water of the cut and dry scenario bodies like the RIAA are advertising, mainly file sharing is theft, thus must be punished. I believe that enough people who actually know what they're talking about (and I don't include the RIAA) will agree that the best way to discover new music is via services like file sharing, free downloads and - more and more - streaming services like Spotify.

With services like Spotify and We7 now replacing the need for ownership with access, the question of piracy and file sharing could soon be a thing of the past if only they could get their catalogues in order. With issues like international licensing still an issue, this won't be resolved any time soon.
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Thursday, 15 October 2009

More asinine demands from ASCAP - Ringtones!

Not content with trying to get royalty payments from the 30 second song samples that many of us use to decide if a song is worth buying, now ASCAP (or should that be "ass cap") is suing American phone provider AT&T over ringtone revenue, according to Ars Technica.

Note that it's not the RIAA donning the dunce cap in this case!

The reason for the ASCAP lawsuit? Apparently everytime a ringtone goes off and someone wants to kill the phone owner for having the worst song on earth as a ringtone, that ringtone is a public performance and requires a royalty payment.

Just when you thought the barrel couldn't be scraped any further.

Now I really don't understand why it's only AT&T who are "at fault" here, but that's not really the point. The annoying 10 second loop of whatever "song" some 15 year old downloaded is a) not a public performance of any merit and b) not controlled by a phone company. Not unless they start making our phones ring... which would answer the question Deacon Blue once posed.

EFF's Fred von Lohman expands the crazy demands from ASCAP to a more natural conclusion, "if a ringtone constitutes a public performance, then so does playing the car radio when the windows are down."

It does look like the American legal system is siding with common sense on this as Verizon were recently cleared of any royalty wrong doings as well.

I guess ASCAP are going to have to continue to put their faith in whatever brainless moron is driving their current "new income" initiative. Maybe suing people who whistle for royalty payments?

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Three and Spotify sign deal

In what can only be considered a fantastic move on behalf of both parties, Spotify and mobile operator 3 have announced a deal for 3 to distribute the music upstart's service on their network.

In a short, but sweet article on New Media Age, the first phone to benefit from this deal will be the HTC Hero, set to launch on the network before Christmas.

A few other news agencies are catching this story and adding their own take, but it's still not clear whether 3 will roll the £9.99 Spotify Premium price into the monthly tariff or if users will have to pay that on top.

Whatever the outcome, this will be good news for 3 customers, and for people who don't want to jump on the cult-wagon that is iPhone.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Bernard Sumner attacked by shark, long after jumping it

Looks like Bad Lieutenant's Bernard Sumner's not having a good time of it.

No sooner has he formed the third band to come from the ashes of Warsaw (the others being Joy Division and New Order) then he gets attacked while swimming on holiday... in Scotland.

According to Music-News.com, he "had a collision with a 30 ft shark. The boat nearly sank and there was a big imprint of a huge shark in the paint on its bottom."

All involved in the accident are said to be ok.

Sumner isn't the only musician to have had aquatic misadventures. Back in 1985 Duran Duran's Simon LeBon almost died while taking part in the round the world Whitbread race when his yacht capsized.

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Friday, 18 September 2009

Satirical solution to deal with the music situation

With the current state of the music industry firmly divided into two camps - "free is good" and "free is bad" - CrunchGear has come up with a novel solution to the whole problem - ban music!

Spurred on by the music industry's increasingly asisine ideas (like charging royalties on 30 second samples), CrunchGear has said enough is enough and put their foot down.

Under their plan, anyone making music - even humming in the shower - will face punishment of death. Of course, this solution would free up loads of time, no more useless lawsuits, no more blogs like this espousing how much stupider the music industry can get, and no overpaid music stars being caught doing something that someone of their role model status shouldn't be doing.

It's a brazen suggestion to say the least, but I think the ideal solution is to get people into higher positions in the music industry who aren't retirement age and who's plan doesn't revolve around "make it how it used to be and we'll be fine".

As we know, it'll never be as it used to be again and that SHOULD be a good thing!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

30 second royalties

The latest entry in the "most asinine way the music industry can prove it's not got a clue" was unveiled today.

Complaining that royalties from downloads aren't high enough the usual group of idiotic Americans are now pushing for a royalty payment on 30 second samples. Yeah, the same 30 second samples that might actually get you to want to part with money - i.e. the marketing tool musicians have to sway your interest from the sea of other music out there.

So, ASCAP, BMI, etc. want to charge royalties on these, and the likes of Amazon and iTunes are just going to close up the sample shop and go home. All of a sudden, the long tail buyers who aren't swayed are still going to stay unswayed and more music doesn't get purchased.... or a person turns to bittorrent or other p2p to be able to sample the wares before they buy.

Hell, in the old world model the buying of music was based around sampling the goods. All the old record shops had listening booths where you could listen before you buy. When CDs became the norm, you'd routinely find banks of CD players down your local HMV where you could skim through a disc before buying it.

Did royalties ever get paid on these? Of course not, as the purchase you made would negate that.

As Mashable rightly point out, this is nothing more than sheer greed!

As they point out, "since when did it become smart business to spend time and money actively preventing your potential customers from finding out if they want to give you money or not? It’s unfortunate that in the shift to a digital media ecosystem licensing agencies are getting squeezed, but some of these tactics reek of desperation."

At least it's not the record labels proving they're idiots this time, merely the royalty collecting agencies trying to justify their existence in a world of ever slimming royalty payments.

It's all a moot point anyway, as the smaller acts - the ones these agencies are there to protect - are usually the first to get shafted anyway. This way you sample some Madonna track before you buy and she gets a double payday. Nice for the small guy.

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Monday, 14 September 2009

New Order's recycled labour of love

FAC 115: Factory Records Stationery (1984)Image via Wikipedia

New Order's manager Rob Gretton (RIP) had a wonderful idea a couple of years back - release all the Factory-era new order singles on CD in a whopping great boxset. Call it "Recycle" and it'll be awesome. The powers that be instead released a boxset called "Retro" and it was just ok (especially if you got the limited edition 5th disc!)

Fast forward a few years and Warner re-issue the New Order Factory-era albums on CD with bonus discs full of "great stuff". However, a few fans in the know, audio technology-wise, realised how badly Warner screwed up yet another batch of releases by their favourite band and decided to take action.

Thus, the fan-led Recycle project was born. Basically it's an mp3 blog featuring the original idea of Gretton's "Recycle" project - the 22 Factory released singles in all their glory. There's also a Flickr photostream of sleeves you can print off and fold correctly to give you the entire experience that Warner has denied you.

Popping over to the blog, you get a real understanding of how much blood, sweat, and tears can go into a project if you really really care - something no record label does much of these days any more. Reading the liner notes for each of the releases on the blog, you get an understanding that this isn't just a case of copying tracks from a 12" or CD, the guys putting this project together are METICULOUS to a fault. The latest "hiccup" related to not being able to find the correct mix of Bizarre Love Triangle. This put the whole project on hold while VINYL copies flung themselves around the world, ready to be ripped, cleaned up and edited by the guys putting the project together.

If you're a New Order fan, you owe it to yourself to check out what these guys are doing. It's awesome when you find people who know what they're doing and put it to good use.

My hat is off to them.
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Thursday, 10 September 2009

Saint Etienne debut goes into Beta!

Foxbase Beta coverThe news today is the long awaited Richard X re-imaging of Saint Etienne's debut album "Foxbase Alpha" is nearly upon us. Through an email from the band, we now know a few more details.

Come next month, fans can finally hear the fruits of this anticipated union. According to Saint Etienner Bob Stanley's email, "using original masters, adding cellos, electrix, choirs, and the spirit of Brian Cant [Richard X] has created something really special - spruced-up yet reverential, it is essentially a 2009 up-date of 'Foxbase Alpha', given a shot of vodka and a loving caress."

There are two snippets on the band's Myspace page which sound just dynamite!

The limited edition version of "Foxbase Beta", released in a limited (numbered) run of 3,000 will be available for pre-order from the band's website later from 21 September. This release will also include "Foxbase Extra", three unreleased tracks from the "Foxbase Alpha" sessions that didn't make it onto the recent Deluxe Edition reissue.

To fill room on the second CD, "there will also be a 'directors' commentary' on the bonus disc. Informative, yes. Pithy, quite possibly."

An un-numbered single disc version will be available at gigs and Rough Trade shops, as well as digitally through iTunes (so there's hope it'll get to Spotify as well!).

Before the release of "Foxbase Beta", a limited (200 copies only) 4 track 12" will be released, featuring further Richard X mixes of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" (extended and instrumental), the Foxbase Beta version of "Girl VII" and Air France's mix of "Spring".

It's nice to see in a time of downturn in both the economy and the music industry, there's still awesome news coming out that puts a nice spring in your step!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The lost nostalgia of the live album

Cover of "Arena"Cover of Arena

Growing up, the only thing I wanted to do was go see my musical heroes live in concert. Living in a town of 50,000 odd meant that really wasn't going to happen for most of the bands I liked. The next best thing was the hope that they'd release a "live album".

Now, with the gift of hindsight, I realise the live album is one of those contractual fillers, much like a "best of", that band's put out so they can leave their record label, or at the very least renegotiate for a better deal.

In my youth, however, the live album was a glimpse into how a band was able to translate their material for the stage, taking album cuts I had committed to memory and shaking them up. There was also the far away mystique of listening to song recorded at venues with amazing names that spawned many an imaginary travelogue. Names like "Hammersmith Odeon", "The Town and Country Club," "Brixton Academy," "The Budokan" and "Le Zenith."

The album I've been listening to recently that jolted my reminiscing of live albums is "In The City of Lights", the 1987 live album by Simple Minds, recorded at Paris' Le Zenith in the summer of '86. When I first bought the album on double cassette, it was the only version of a lot of the songs that I had and I learned them in that format, including the covers medley.

Other live albums of note, that actually stood as discographical entries in a band's repertoire (and not merely cheaply cobbled together wallet-emptiers for diehard fans) for me included Duran Duran's "Arena" (which took 20 years to finally be reissued with perennial set closer Rio attached), Depeche Mode's "101" and the Bowie duo of 70's live albums "David Live" and "Stage".

In recent years, the idea of the live album has been diluted to an amazing degree in an obvious forward step. A number of artists now offer a live CD from their show available shortly after the end of the encore. Instead of a band releasing one live album as a snap shot of their repertoire in time, you can now collect a band's entire tour, warts and all. It's sort of a sanctioned bootlegging service. Not only does this render a live album's discographical inclusion obsolete, it also ensures a die hard fan will end up being very very poor.

Don't get me wrong, though. Apart from the mystique of the live album the other thing I really wanted as a kid was a live album recorded at the show I was at. To a certain degree, I've been able to get that with this new service. I am the proud owner of Moby "Live at Brixton Academy" from his 2005 hotel tour, released about 10 minutes after he came off stage! (I swear I can hear myself yelling at him!)

However, it's not just the band's feeding their fans frenzy for a copy of the show you were just at that's diluted the mystique of the live album, it's been the release of live albums that just don't feel right. While the aforementioned Depeche Mode released one of the greatest live albums of the 80s with "101," they then went on to release one of the most un-needed live albums of the 90s with "Songs of Faith and Devotion Live". This literally captured the "Songs of Faith and Devotion" album live - same songs, same sequence.

I guess the wisdom of age means I will never view the release of a live album again as the event I used to see them as. To a certain degree they simply aren't. Duran Duran's "Arena," for instance, was a multimedia experience before the advent of multimedia experiences. They released an album, a video, a making of video and even a board game - all for a live album! Then there was the over the top video with the William S. Burroughs theme. Sheesh!

Try cramming all that into a post-concert bootleg!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Bob Dylan to voice... err mumble ... new GPS system

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. closeup...Image via Wikipedia

If you're driving somewhere you've never been and you have you're relying on your trusty sat nav to get you there in one piece, who would you want to be giving you directions? Apparently Bob Dylan

Out with the clear, succinctly pronounced female voice announcing, "at the next junction, turn left", in with the "bee bobbydee goo" mumbling of the 60s troubadour.

Yes, in what has to be the worst idea ever, Bob "Incomprehensible" Dylan will be misleading the sat nav generation into brick walls, farmer's fields and down dead ends.

Dylan, himself, however, seems to understand the absurdity of the situation, telling the BBC, "I think it would be good if you are looking for directions and hear my voice saying something like: 'Left at the next street, no a right — you know what? Just go straight'."

Don't let this placate you, however, as the guardian offer this worrying observation, "His talking voice is even more peculiar. If you didn't know it was Bob Dylan speaking on the BBC, you would assume it was an actor giving an extremely bad imitation of Bob Dylan."

There have been a spate of celebrity sat nav voiceovers recently, but this has to take the cake as the one most deserved of the "april fools" moniker.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Spotify for iphone

Well it seems to be good news all around in the Spotify camp.

Their iPhone app, seen by many, as the do-or-die moment for the company has been approved by Apple. The crux of the app is that it'll be a free download, but require a premium account to use.

This should generate £9.99/month for the company from a lot more users as previously the only benefit you got for being a premium user was no ads and a higher bit-rate.

This good news should give the company the critical and financial clout to make the march to the US market they've been planning on for so long.

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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Pet Shop Boys' mis-handling by EMI

Neil TennantNeil Tennant via last.fm

We're used to hearing and reading how record companies don't have a clue about a great many things. To hear how one in particular can screw up the only thing it really knows how to do - release and market an album - well, that makes for interesting reading!

Tonight, when I got home, the latest issue of Pet Shop Boys' fanclub magazine, "Literally", was waiting for me.

Inside, was the story of the release of the duo's latest album Yes, back in March. It read like a catalogue of disasters the duo has faced at the hands of EMI's ineptitude. To be honest, the guys have been INCREDIBLY faithful to a label that has shown them contempt and disrespect over the years.

The problems, well documented but worth talking about again, would make me think twice about any allegiances I felt for my record label.

The download problem
On iTunes, 2 500 copies of the album had been pre-ordered. EMI ballsed up the release date data they provided to Apple, resulting in the album being available for purchase and download mid-week the week before actual release, and for the paltry sum of £5.49. It was eventually removed from purchase until the following week, but this action literally deprived the album of 2 500 purchases that would have counted to chart placement. A number 2 in the charts became a number 4.

As Neil Tennant says in the magazine, "All of the pre-order scams worked against the album, which makes my blood boil."

It was new technology that alerted the duo to EMI's cock up. Says Neil Tennant, "Someone Twittered us saying, 'I didn't realise the album was out already'."

Eastern promise
The physical release of lead single "Love Etc." was beset by issues of low to non-existent stock on shops like HMV or Amazon. This was put down to EMI pressing the discs in the UK and shipping half of them off to Europe for some reason.

Digital Bundle problem
One of the digital bundles EMI sold via iTunes for "Love Etc." featured two Yes album tracks as a pre-album taster. The plan was for the purchaser to only be able to purchase these tracks only as part of the single bundle with an offer to "complete the album" when Yes was released.

The tracks ended up being available individually and the "complete the album" offer never materialised.

Printing cockup
The initial run of the Yes Etc double CD set had a booklet that was printed with the pages bounded the wrong way round. A web page was set up where purchasers could apply to have a properly bound booklet mailed out to them.

This isn't a tale of EMI trying to come to terms with the new economy or trying to work out how to survive in the face of piracy. It's EMI trying to come to terms with releasing and marketing an album and single without cocking it up. Something they've apparently done for about 100 years.

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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Duran Duran Musical

Nick RhodesNick Rhodes via last.fm

I'm not a huge fan of musicals, the ones where they hog-tie an artist's back catalogue into some dodgy storyline especially gets my goat.

So, how do I feel hearing the news that Duran Duran are following in the footsteps of bands like Queen and Abba? Torn. Part of me doesn't want to believe it, but as Nick Rhodes told Heart FM, "We are actually [planning it] - a few people have talked about it."

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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Spotify and the leaps of faith

I love Spotify. No two ways about it. They've ignited debate, extinguished piracy needs and shown the way of the future for music on the web and beyond.

However, for every article I read about them being the saviour of the music industry, I'm reading another about how their business plan is being crippled by royalty payments and not enough sign up for their subscription service.

Tech Crunch recently reported about various VCs takes on Spotify and the leaps of faith they would have to take to invest or not invest in the firm. It makes for interesting reading, and crystallises a lot of my concerns into one succinct article.

The biggest problem Spotify faces is they're " not only trying to break the online music subscription curse, they’re trying to do something few have done on the Web. To date people have shown themselves unwilling to pay for content and premium services en masse."

While I'm as guilty as the next person in not paying a tenner a month for a sub, I just don't see the benefits yet, apart from the charity of keeping the company afloat. I think when they untether themselves from the PC - either with an iPhone app or an android app, you'll see people begin to consider the sub a bit more.

Sure you can have a massive hard drive for all your MP3s, or you can pay a tenner a month and listen to something new everyday on the go. It's compelling.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Robbie to release new album, does anyone care?

Robbie Williams signed to EMI for a record advance and went on to release rubbish album after rubbish album.

Now after a three year gap, EMI announced today that Williams is being unleashed on the music world once more. Come November, his new album "Reality Killed the Video Star" will hit stores, prefaced by a single "Bodies" in October.

Anyone who knows me can testify how big a fan of his I was back in the day. However, that's been eclipsed by the material he's released since 2000 (i.e. the post Guy Chambers stuff) and the latter material has really made me reassess my opinion of his earlier output.

I can't say today's news is anything but a reminder that someone I thought had packed it in obviously needs to pay for a new house or his rehab bill.

The promise of a Trevor Horn production, a Guy Chambers co-write (he's probably the magic ingredient that went into the material I enjoyed) and the tease of a potential Sex Pistols cover for the first single (i.e. it shares the same title!) are about the only things I'm looking forward to.

We'll see what transpired when the new disc hits November 9th.

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There's more to the music industry than the record industry

Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...Image via CrunchBase

As bands are proving time and again, the future of the MUSIC industry can be forged without the RECORD industry.

Of course this must scare the living daylights out the RIAA who must know their paycheque is a few months away from being an historical footnote. I guess that's why they're suing so many people.

The NY Times recently ran an op-ed piece by Charlie Blow (you couldn't make some of these names up) which talks about the death throws of the music industry. However, as TechDirt rightly point out however, it's the obit on the recording industry that needs to be written, not the music industry. For the music industry, the evolution is only continuing.

Sales for the recording industry may be down due to piracy, access vs ownership and single track purchase vs albums, but bands are thriving, finding new and amazing ways to make money. From live albums available moments after the gig, to "pay what you like" payment models, to harnessing the money making power of Twitter, the symbiotic relationship of technology and music has never been closer.

While the RIAA is suing fans out of existence, the rest of the music world seems to be moving on. When they've blown the smoke from their lawsuit guns, ready for the next victim, the RIAA may find that not only has the last person left the room, but they've also turned out the lights.

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Sunday, 2 August 2009

You Tube monetisation and the making money not lawsuits equation

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

For the longest time, the rule of thumb on the internet regarding the record industry has been, "do wrong, get punished". The overwhelming example is downloads, but has also extended to remixes or mashups, as well as an unauthorised soundtracks in video clips on sites like YouTube.

This rule of thumb seems to have been turned on its head recently with the phenom that is "JK Wedding Entrance Dance". As everyone knows by now, this video used the track "Forever" by disgraced "urban artiste" Chris Brown as its raison d'etre. YouTube's "please don't sue us out of existence" olive branch to record labels up until this point has been to disable the audio of videos that contain non-cleared samples, of which this is a stunning case.

For some reason, this video was posted unaltered and the record label instead chose to implement a new YouTube feature that allows click to buy links to appear in the video itself.

YouTube have documented the whole thing themselves in a case study revolving around the wedding video.

It would be nice to see the free flow of creativity allow to continue unabated and maybe throw the labels a little cash for ... hmm, no work.

Let's face it, anything we as fans do creatively is free marketing for this industry that really can't/hasn't/probably won't ever get it's act together. An industry that's only original idea in the last decade is to sue the very people it's trying to market to really needs to have its brain examined. The Inquisitor goes a step further and pulls a strip from Google for letting this happen, saying "Google’s response to the Wedding Dance video is nothing to be proud of."

Still, it's nice that somehow YouTube were able to keep the neanderthal wolves from the door, even if it is at the expense of its user's content.

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Monday, 27 July 2009

Apple's cocktail to resurrect the album

Simon Le BonSimon Le Bon via last.fm

Having decimated the concept of the album with a la carte song downloads, Apple has now apparently seen the error of its ways (i.e. 79p versus £7.99 in revenue) and is teaming up with the remaining four "majors" to take back the music.

Dubbed "Project Cocktail" (yeah, this sounds as hip as the Tom Cruise flick of the same name), the idea is "It's all about recreating the heyday of the album when you would sit around with your friends looking at the artwork, while you listened to the music," according to a report in the FT.

Right now with some releases on iTunes, if you buy the whole album, you get a digital booklet (read PDF) that includes cover art and liner notes. Project Cocktail will apparently be an evolution of this., with the "killer app" being that you'll be able to launch the songs from within the booklet. Whether or not you need iTunes running is to be seen. I doubt Apple would miss this trick though.

Wired take the discussion further ruminating on the future of the album cover. When I interviewed Simon LeBon in 1997 we discussed the decimation of the album cover from that decade's perspective - shrinking a 12" square to 5" was tantamount to blasphemy, with LeBon lamenting, "I like record shops. I actually like walking away with a lump of plastic under your arm." With the evolution to digital it's got even worse - from 5" to mere pixels, depending on playback device.

My concern for Project Cocktail is that most of today's music isn't really worth listening to, thanks mainly to a record industry in perpetual free fall, choosing music that fits the "now" instead of something that's got longevity. It's a rarity if most acts actually get to the point of releasing an album, let along the number of releases that warrant the greatest hits hallmark.

Having said that, most of today's music fans (read: the young) have no real concept of an "album" anyway, and this could just be seen as yet another attempt for the labels to try and maintain the "living in the past" stance that's served them so well up until this point.

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Spotify for iphone - NOW will people pay?

The internet was abuzz today with news from Spotify that they've submitted an app to Apple for approval (see below).

This is monumental news for a number of reasons - mainly that it may be the "killer app" that pushes people into becoming paying customers (as the app will only work those the £9.99/month elite). Secondly, Spotify has been seen by some as an iTunes killer, so it would be interesting to see if Apple will open it's gate to let the new kid play in its yard.

Over at Spotify's blog, they have a quick little video that will soon have you opening your wallet with your £10 at the ready. Some of the features are priceless, including the ability to play playlists offline, and to update playlists live, so that your iphone updates as you update the PC client.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Free is good for business as well

Image representing Chris Anderson as depicted ...Image via CrunchBase

Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails dabbled with it, and now Wired's Chris Anderson is expounding the benefits of free, as the new model economy that is taking the world by storm and making people who know how to play the game very rich.

For those in the dark, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails both released albums and offered them free, allowing people to pay what they thought it was worth. The reasoning being, the bands had new material to tour and would make more from concert tickets and merchandising trinkets than the paltry sum the record label would give them in royalties.

For the most part this worked, although more from a news perspective than an economic perspective, but the seeds were nonetheless sown.

Now Anderson has taken this idea and run the whole nine yards with it, surmising that free is the new economy for more than just music. However, in a book excerpt from the latest issue of Wired magazine, he talks at length about how musicians, not stuck in the machinations of the past, could actually use the new economy to their advantage.

His anecdote about the Brazilian band Banda Calypso is case in point. A band that has had all their albums pirated, yet make enough money from merch and live performances to actually own a jet!

We're seeing the move away from pure record labels already. Live Nation are turning into more promoter / labels, offering stars a 360 package that includes concerts, music releases, and merchandising.

I think, however, with the rise of the web, we can take even Live Nation out of the equation. Giving people for free something that is easily obtainable will never replace the value of the rarity and that's where seeing a band in concert will always make a musician a nice chunk of coin.

Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor has recently come out in defence of Anderson's position, saying that bands needs to try harder to make something rare that fans actually want to buy. Reznor himself offered NIN's album "Ghosts I-IV" in a variety of formats, with a free download being the cheapest option and a $300 ultra rare deluxe boxset being the top of the line.

Free is here to stay thanks to the ubiquity of digital, but there's be a place for the physical format for some time to come and thanks to "free" the physical format is getting a hell of a lot cooler to own.

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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

EMI shoot selves in foot

Sometimes writing how the music industry get it wrong is really really easy.

Take today. EMI have announced they're going to stop selling CDs to independent record shops. The reports are from the states, but the ramifications are still big.

The large shops, especially in the US, feature almost exclusively top 40 releases. It's the indie shops, as featured in Nick Hornby's book "High Fidelity" that feed the powerful long tail of the industry - the people looking for catalogue titles, obscure titles or help with finding something in particular that an acne-scarred Wal-Mart teen won't be able to help out with.

I used to shop in a number of record shops - Record Time, Memories and Melodies, Repeat the Beat, etc. - in the greater Detroit area back in the day and NONE of them were remotely chain shops and all of them had the most knowledgeable staff you'd ever want to meet. I imagine I ended up buying more music via chats and their recommendations than I would ever have just shopping at Harmony House or Wal-Mart.

Now indies aren't completely out of the loop. They just have to source their stock from third parties, as EMI's decision seems to revolve around cost cutting. This is pretty much akin to you or I going to a shop and buying stock then trying to resell it without people wondering why they don't just get rid of the middle man.

If the labels really want to piss off the hand that feeds (well feeds outside the here today gone tomorrow top 40), they're doing a really good job.

It's hard enough surviving in the current economic climate without your suppliers pulling a fast one on you.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Ownership versus access again

The guardian ran a report today saying (Reader's Digest version here) that piracy is down, streaming is up and everyone is happy.

Now this good news is the result of interviewing 1,000 people (out of the 59 million or so in the UK) and extrapolating an awful lot from what they found (as any good survey does).

The article raves on about services like Spotify and You Tube solving a music lover's needs without needing to resort to illegal P2P. This isn't 100% of the story, as the article also mentions the illegal download shift could also come as people copy each others' existing MP3s, rip CDs, etc.


TechDirt takes the article a little further and delves - rightly so - a little deeper into the asinine mechanics of the record labels. The shift from piracy to streaming is good for everyone. That's a given. Why, then are the labels trying to screw these legit services into extinction by demanding sky high licensing fees?

"This is how the legacy industry kills anything even remotely positive. The second that the industry sees anything that's working, it suddenly smothers it by demanding to get a bigger and bigger cut."

It's been an issue I've had troubles with for ages. Sure they want their money, but if the choice is NO money due to piracy, or reduced income from the likes of You Tube and Spotify, it seems like a no brainer.

The PRS here in the UK has already forced You Tube's hand and they have in turn banned UK viewers from watching music videos. Spotify's financial woes are also becoming more and more apparent as are Pandora in the US, who were recently saved by a lowering of the per song fee they're forced to pay.

The labels continue to wage an argument akin to "well these are the rates we'd get if a consumer bought a CD or it was played on commercial radio". They don't seem to get the argument is between piracy (no income) and legit streaming (some income).

One day this industry will wake up, realise that the consumer fuels the market, will cower to their demands and the world will be a better place. Until that time, they'll argue they're a business and need to make money and then complain when they go bust.

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Friday, 10 July 2009

Erasure Club sees the light of day

Back in the day promo meant expensive, exclusive and very few people could get a hold of it. To whit, back in the day Erasure released a series of four exclusive promo EPs called "Erasure Club", with the catalogue numbers ERAS1, ERAS2, ERAS3, and ERAS.

Up until now, the only tracks from ANY of these eps that have seen a wide distribution have been the tracks from ERAS4, released as "Abba-esque Remixes".

Come August 10, Mute are finally releasing a few more ERAS tracks on an ep cunningly titled "Erasure.Club". There is still one track that will remain unreleased even after this EP comes out - "Who Needs Love (Like That) - Winnie Cooper Mix" from ERAS2 - which is left off due to clearance reasons.

If you have the rare as duck's teeth promos on 12", I'd recommend getting rid before their value plummets.

The tracklist:
'Push Me Shove Me (Moonbeam Mix)' 6:22
Remixed by Jon Marsh, taken from ERAS1
'Push Me Shove Me (Catatonic Mix)' 4:14
Remixed by Jon Marsh, taken from ERAS1
'Senseless (Avalon Mix)' 6:30
Remixed by Bruce Forest, taken from ERAS1
'Ship Of Fools (Orbital Southsea Isles Of Holy Beats Mix)' 9:43
Remixed by Dr Alex Paterson & Thrash, taken from ERAS2
'Sometimes (Danny Rampling Mix)' 6:13
Remixed by Danny Rampling, taken from ERAS3
'Weight Of The World (Heavy 'B' Mix)' 5:12
Remixed by Bruce Smith, taken from ERAS3

Monday, 6 July 2009

Stone Roses box set

Stone Roses should really be one of those bands like The La's who burned out and faded away after their one shining moment in the sun.

But no.

Having released THE indie album of the 80s as their debut, they signed to Geffen and released a collective Led Zeppelin-scented dump some five years later.

Having said that, Silvertone, the label that managed to score the band's debut album, have taken great pride re-releasing the album every decade or so. I reviewed the 10th anniversary edition back in 99 and even had the review feature in Zomba's Canadian press pack.

Now, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the album, no holds are barred, as they say. A new website - http://www.thestoneroses20.com/ - has been launched to alert the world (or at least the world that cares enough to buy yet ANOTHER copy of the damn album) about the imminent release of a wallet-emptying box set.

According to the site, the box will comprise three CDs, three vinyl albums, a DVD, a 2GB USB stick, a book and some art prints.

The art prints actually works really well for me, as guitarist/artist John Squire was the Jackson Pollack of the indie scene, and his artwork adorned all the band's early releases.

I just can't understand what material there is that would take three CDs. They're not the Beatles, there's no mono version of the album. Alas, according to the website, the three CDS comprise "the re-mastered album, re-mastered Extras (including all AA's and B Sides) PLUS album of LOST DEMOS (including one previously unheard track, Pearl Bastard)". Ah.

If the thought of all that sickens you, there's also a Deluxe Edition featuring the album and the lost demos alongside a 28 page booklet, or just the remastered album with the full length version of "Fool's Gold" tacked on at the end, just like my 1989 Canadian CD had.

I loved the album when it came out, and don't feel it's really been beaten by the musical sands of time, but I really don't know if the thought of all that Stone Roses - CDs, DVDs, vinyl, etc. - is really what I want these days... and I DO still have my 10th anniversary release.

It's a nice idea though and I commend Sony (Silvertone/Jive's new post BMG home) for compiling such a nice release.

This monster release finds its way to record shops ... ok HMV ... and all points internet-wise on August 10th for the paltry sum of around 80 quid.

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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The great Michael Jackson ticket scam

LOS ANGELES - JUNE 23:  In this handout photo ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

After the hoopla over Michael Jackson's demise last week, a thought was cast for the people actually putting on his audacious "get out of tax hell" series of concerts. The dancers, the set designers, the musicians, the bootleg t-shirt designers, the venue itself.

In order to claw some money back, the promoter is doing something really wrong. They're giving fans who bought tickets a choice - either a refund or a ticket. That's right - you can either get your £80ish plus all the service charges back, or get a souvenir ticket for the concert date and seat you would have had. The tickets will be a Michael Jackson design exclusive lenticular design, but it's a TICKET.

Of course, if tickets were bought from a third party, like ebay, etc. good luck seeing ANYTHING from that transaction.

The question then becomes how much is a useless concert ticket really worth? Many promoters and ticket issuers will say it's worth the £4-£10 service charge they add on to the price of the ticket and the promoters in this case would have been justified to offer the souvenir ticket for this fee giving the rest of the ticket price back as a refund.

However, I guess AEG and Ticketmaster believe that fans are paying £80ish for ticket and the concert just happens to be a free bonus. In that case, I'm glad to have seen all those free gigs and just wish I'd kept all the expensive bits of paper I'd bought.

This just has to be one of the worst cases of cashing in on celebrity death I've heard about in a long time.

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Monday, 29 June 2009

How we used to buy concert tickets before the internet

From a Newsweek archive piece of people buying tickets for the Jackson's 1984 Victory tour:

When newspapers containing the first official ticket order forms rolled off the presses in the early hours of June 19, fans were lined up to buy them. "It's ridiculous!" said disc jockey Roy Leonard, who has been following the Jackson craze for the Chicago radio station WGN: "People were stealing papers off other people's front lawns." When newspapers containing the first official ticket order forms rolled off the presses in the early hours of June 19, fans were lined up to buy them. "It's ridiculous!" said disc jockey Roy Leonard, who has been following the Jackson craze for the Chicago radio station WGN: "People were stealing papers off other people's front lawns."

Big Brother: As every newspaper thief soon learned, Michael's show was no easy mark. Anxious fans were instructed to mail a money order (four tickets for $120), with no guarantee of a specific date, a good seat—or even any tickets at all. Despite the stiff price and chancey prospects (tickets were to be randomly distributed), customers in Kansas City jammed into post offices to buy money orders—15,000 in one day.

Crazy! I remember having to line up outside Blue Moon Records in Port Huron, MI for Depeche Mode tickets back in 1989... with a TicketMaster imposed cash-only policy. Still, I didn't have to cut coupons from newspapers or post off money orders with NO guarantee of getting anything back.

Still $120 for 4 tickets for a top draw artist is a nice indication of the times.
I imagine these days that price would be per ticket.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Indie musicians making money in the new economy

Amanda PalmerAmanda Palmer via last.fm

When people talk about the power of the internet to empower musicians, they usually cite bands with existing powerful fan bases, generally garnered during the band's major labels days.

It's nice to see that indie acts can get in on the money making band wagon that the internet and social media can afford. One such act is Amanda Palmer, from The Dresden Dolls, who has written a blog post about how she managed to make $19,000 in 10 hours using Twitter.

It's compiled on another blog site from various Palmer-written entries, and makes for a good read.

It just shows how an act with a fan base of less than the Radioheads and Nine Inch Nails of this world can still eek out a living doing what they love, outside the confines of major labels.

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