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.