Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rajars: two key moments

Two key things from the latest round of Rajar audience figures.

First, Chris Evans is now pulling the largest-ever radio audience (this century, at least), with 9.91 million. (This isn't at the expense of Grimshaw, either, as the Radio 1 breakfast show has started to grow an audience, too).

Second: 6Music now has more listeners than Radio 3. Not bad for a network that was supposed to be nothing more than a trivia question by now.

N'Sync: The last to know

Were you surprised at the recent release of the two-disc Essential N'Sync collection?

You weren't the only one:

Sony released the two-disc album on Tuesday, July 29. Member Lance Bass, however, tweeted his frustration at the label for not informing him and his bandmates.

Bass wrote: "I love when the record label doesn't even tell you they are releasing a new 'NSYNC album tomorrow !"

"Guess the label didn't expect all our amazing fans to still be there for us," he added later on.
I'm not quite sure how Bass thinks that would work - presumably Sony thinks there's still a bunch of middle-aged people desperate to cling to their youth by repurchasing tracks they have already got at least twice already ("still a massive fanbase") otherwise they wouldn't have released the record at all.

What the pop papers say: The Stinger

It's not often these days you get the chance to write about a successful music magazine; it's even rarer you hear of one which is a print magazine. Which makes the success of The Stinger even more something to celebrate.

It's a free publication which serves Hastings and what appears to now be known as "the 1066 area". (The implication that nothing much has happened in the area in the last thousand years or so might seem unfair, unless you've ever been to Battle.)

It looks gorgeous, and is just coming up to its third edition. It works because it treats music as a perpetual timeline and runs history alongside the contemporary. Kind of the thing NME has spent the last five years trying to fumble its way towards, but without the horrible whirring of gears. Perhaps living in an area where the main attraction is a military defeat a millennium ago makes you better at absorbing the past and using it to drive the present. Or perhaps the team is just more confident at explaining why music moves them.

Either way: a great read. Let's hope their reign is as long and solid as that of our Norman overlords.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Google News giggles at Gaga's jazz direction

Of course, it's just an algorithm pulling an unrelated image from a nearby article, but...

It does look like Google is suggesting GaGa's jazz collaborations are most likely going to end up with the off-brand breakfast cereals and wonky-faced dolls on the shelves of US discount stores.

Michelle Shocked attends to new dog audience

Last time we heard from Michelle Shocked, she was trying to explain her disappointing-cum-heartbreaking anti-gay ranting as some sort of play acting.

She's back, though, and going after a softer target - digital music executives. And she's, erm, using the medium of songs only dogs can hear (a step forward from stage shows only Republicans can stomach, I suppose):

She recently released a silent album on called “Inaudible Women,” containing 11 brief “songs” named after big-shots in the music industry. With titles like “David Drummond (Google, Youtube),” “Robert Walls (Clear Channel),” and “Chris Harrison (Pandora),” she’s calling out people who run the digital streaming world.
Or possibly acting the part of someone who calls out the people who run the digital streaming world.

Dygeddit? It's not a silent album, because that would be bad and break the rules; it's an album with music on, but music that only dogs can hear.

A spokesperson for some dogs issued a statement, saying that while they enjoyed her early work they're more excited for the La Roux album right now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Charli XCX: Apparently PopCrush is easily surprised

A rustling in the bushes, and Popcrush is at our window, panting wildly:

Charli XCX Shares Surprising Remarks on Music Industry
Surprising remarks? She's not suggesting that the remaining major labels merge, stop making music and start raising chooks and herbs instead, is she?

What did she say that was so surprising, Popcrush?
Her next album is due out later this year, and armed with her new LP, Charli says she wants to “f— up the music industry, not make it a prettier place.”
Oh. That's not actually especially surprising, is it? That seems to be exactly the sort of thing that Charli XCX has been saying since she first started releasing music. It's a bit like hearing Ed Miliband say he intends to win the next election and finding that a surprise.

Still, surprised Popcrush is, and it needs to reassure its apparently hugely conservative readership:
But don’t let her tough words fool you — her sound is still pure pop.
Phew. That's alright then. I was worried her attempt to work around the structure of the multinational music industry would only be possible by making free jazz.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Aretha Franklin: Burger queen

Aretha Franklin ordered takeout from a Johnny Rockets. She then sat down to eat it inside the restaurant, whereupon a staff member tried to explain the concept of takeaway.

Now, obviously, it's Aretha Franklin, but that didn't buy her any favours:

The spokesman says Franklin ordered a hamburger after performing a sold-out show. But he says the server screamed at Franklin, saying she couldn't sit down to eat because she ordered takeout.

Franklin says in a statement that the worker was "very rude, unprofessional and nasty."
Of course, releasing a statement about getting some subpar service in a minimum-wage establishment is in no way rude, unprofessional or nasty.

But Rockets, naturally, has caved and has kicked its own staff:
A Johnny Rockets spokeswoman says the franchise owner is sorry for the actions of "a new and very young employee."

She says the owner has spoken with the employee and has clarified his takeout policies.
The clarification is "don't pick a fight with someone who looks like they might have their own PR team and nothing much to promote right now."

Nivea: 'I was seen as unfuckable, and therefore unsellable'

Remember Nivea? No, not the lotion, the singer.

At the start of the century, she was doing quite well, but around 2005, Jive Records suddenly stopped promoting her second album, Complicated; since then, she's seemed to spend a lot of time working on projects which didn't seem to go anywhere.

What happened? Nivea has a theory:

“At the time I wasn’t receiving a lot of support,” expressed the Atlanta native. “I had management issues and imaging issues. I was being labeled ‘unf*ckable’ to male fans because the industry wants female artist to be attractive because sex sells. They said, ‘you are getting booed up, wifed, and trying to have a baby. You are unf*ckable to us.’ Jive Records, the industry itself and all of the games you have to play, and the fake persona you have to maintain is overwhelming.”
Of course, it's not impossible to be, erm, "wifed" and still have a successful career - but you do have to be Beyonce first.

What's especially depressing is that even within its own shabby logic, the music industry makes no sense. Because if you're saying 'basically, we're only making records so we can film videos for people to wank to', what sort of people do you think make up that target market? They'll be sat at home, sports sock at the ready, just about to get going but thinking "you know what, I'd better just check Wikipedia to make sure the person I'm just about to dehumanise doesn't have a home life"? The music industry doesn't understand music fans; it doesn't really seem to understand solitary masturbators either.

What's wrong with the entertainment industry? Don't they understand how fantasy works? "Yeah, sorry, you'd have been perfect for the role of Superman but now the Mail Online has these pictures of you taking a bus, the audience will KNOW you don't fly everywhere."

But this is discovering someone has dug a cesspit in your living room and worrying about the quality of the spadework. The most depressing thing is it's not even surprising hearing that the 21st Century music industry still has the values that made post-war Hollywood such a wonderful place for a young woman to be.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Folding magazines: Bop

Bop - which has provided American youngsters with permatanned-and-white-toothed pin ups since 1983 - has been closed by its publisher:

Sister title Tiger Beat remains, but probably on borrowed time.

Bookmarks: REM

If you have 20 minutes to spare, discover why REM's Out Of Time turned wasteful CD packaging into a solid piece of legislation. And what happened to the Longbox format. Pitch, the music podcast, explains all

Promoterobit: Jon Fat Beast

Last night, noticing it was the 25th anniversary of the the Venue, I was thinking about there was the only place I ever saw Jon Fat Beast doing his warm-up act (for The Family Cat), and was wondering what he was doing these days.

Woke up to this, this morning:

Although most famous as the shouty, shirtless, sweaty bloke who'd come on stage just before Carter USM, Beast's real contribution to music was the work he did as promoter - through The Timebox, and (at first) The Bull & Gate.

If we live in an age now of landfill indie, Beast's model was - as he cheerfully acknowledged in an interview with Plunder The Tombs - more pile 'em high; sell 'em cheap:
I would get sent over 300 demos a week at its peak.
We were very cheap/free entry and made our money selling hundreds of sweary tee shirts I designed
It'd be difficult to come up with a list of bands from the era who played their first (or sometimes last) London date thanks to the support of JFB, but if you write down a list of bands from the era, you wouldn't be far wrong.

And - again from that Plunder The Tombs interview - he upset the right people:
I used to call Simon Cowell a cunt twice a week, he was at Phonogram as an A and R man.
No further details about his death at this point. But the music world has lost a legend - even if the focus of the legend probably looks at the wrong part of his work.

This week just gone

The most popular July stories:

1. Harry Styles likes porn
2. Nicky Wire meets John Major
3. Lloyd Cole withdraws from Spotify
4. Tax asshole Gary Barlow to launch invesigation into how he came to be a tax asshole
5. James Arthur feels Glastonbury was missing James Arthur
6. VH1 organises a chance to kick Robin Thicke
7. Why it's worse when it's the Arctic Monkeys than it is when Gary Barlow
8. Downloadable: Hannah Peel
9. RIP: Tommy Ramone
10. Jack White sounds a bit creepy out-of-context

These were this week's interesting releases:

La Roux - Trouble In Paradise

Download Trouble In Paradise

King Creosote - From Scotland With Love

Download From Scotland With Love

Raveonettes - Pe'ahi

Woman's Hour - Conversations

Download Conversations

Sparks - Left Coast Angst

Download Left Coast Angst

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Michael Jackson: Gary school district tries its hand at satire

It's understandable that a town might want to honour its most famous son in some way. It might be more problematic if your town is Gary, Indiana and that son is Michael Jackson.

Still, he was a big star - if a bit controversial - and I'm sure there's an appropriate way of honouring his legacy while not reflecting too deeply on the 'weird around kids' bit. What did you have in mind, Gary?:

Michael Jackson is being honored in his hometown of Gary, Indiana, as the school board plans to rename a school after the iconic pop star.
Not since Vulgaria decided to rename the local elementary after the Child Catcher has there been such an odd decision.
Gary’s school board announced on Tuesday that it will rename a school after the king of pop to “inspire children to excel in the arts and education.”
"because that's what Jackson's known for, right?" they continued. "The singing and the dancing? That was his thing. That was his thing."

They could try and get hold of that statue that used to be outside Craven Cottage. That'd give the full 360 creep-out experience.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pandora nudges past the billion dollar mark

Pandora has passed a significant moment in its business: it's paid the billionth dollar out in royalties. Music Ally reports:

A big number from McAndrews in the earnings call, claiming that Pandora has paid “over $1bn, yes, $1bn in all-time royalties to artists, publishers and labels”
To artists, publishers and labels, although that's almost certainly not in descending order of size of share.

Still, it's a lot of money. It may actually be a crippling amount of money, as Pandora's losses are heading in the wrong direction:
Witness its latest quarterly financial results, where the company beat analyst predictions, yet still saw its share price fall by 10%. That’s partly due to the company continuing to report net losses: $11.7m in the last quarter compared to $6.9m in Q2 2013. This, despite decent revenue growth: a rise of 43% year-on-year to $218.9m.
If your revenue grows by half, and your losses are damn-near doubling, you might have a pretty fundamental problem. Unless you've got a plan.
There was no news on Pandora’s global expansion plans – “We don’t have anything to announce at this point, but we do see longer-term. Our vision as I mentioned is to reach billions of people around the world,” said McAndrews.
Pandora don't appear to have a plan.

Janelle Monae: Somehow, Fox will decide that this calls for impeachment

Barack Obama has a secret, a secret known to Janelle Monae:

“And I have to say nice things about her because she may be the only person in possession of a video in which I try to keep up with her and Usher on the dance floor. Now, this is top secret. She has promised that this will never be released. But she can blackmail me at any time.”

– President Obama divulging a previously well-kept state secret during his remarks at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser Wednesday.
Obviously, it's not a secret if you tell everyone but I suppose Obama figures Edward Snowden is going to get to this one at some point, so he might as well get it out there first.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Duran Duran sue themselves, officially, sort-of

If you're of a certain age, you will have had disappointing experiences with fanclubs. (Younger readers - fan clubs were what you used to do before they had street teams, when you were marketed at, and not pressganged into being part of the marketing effort.)

Certainly, I'm starting to think that glossy A-Ha poster magazine might now never, ever turn up. It's not the three pounds that stings, it's the amount of time I spent making sure the self-addressed envelope was beautifully presented.

Duran Duran, it turns out, are experiencing a similar disappointing experience from the other side - and they're suing their own fan club:

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges that Worldwide Fan Clubs, Inc. entered into a contract with Duran Duran in 2010 that stipulated the company would create and manage a fan club for the band.

The fan club was also to warehouse and sell band merchandise, maintain accurate fan club records, collect membership fees, keep accurate accounting and give Duran Duran 75 percent of all profits, the suit said. Worldwide Fan Clubs would keep the other 25 percent.

The band is now claiming Worldwide Fan Clubs failed to keep accurate accounting records and make revenue payments to the band, according to the suit.
The problem seems to be, then, that there wasn't as much money as Duran were expecting. Now, that could be because the money wasn't being split properly, or it could simply be because there weren't as many fans as the band expected.

In effect, Duran could be using this lawsuit to try and tell if they're actually still popular.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bookmarks: Arctic Monkeys

Luke Nightingale, in the New Statesman, on why it hurts more when the Arctic Monkeys choose to minimise their tax payments:

Their tales are of the streets we walked; streets that were built by public investment. They were born in NHS hospitals, attended state-funded schools. The Arctic Monkeys flourished as a result of incisive and witty lyrics of social realism that chimed with the everyman. And yet, any reference to civic pride from now on will be warped with bitter irony.

Britney Spears: Smells sells

Something of a rubicon crossed this week: With her 16th fragrance, Britney Spears has now released twice as many toilet waters as albums.

Slowdive rely on the kindness of strangers

So Slowdive arrived in Taipei...

Unfortunately, their equipment decided not to travel.

Would the good people of Taipei come through for the band?

Yes. Yes, they did.

Turns out the plane with the equipment on got caught up in a typhoon cancellation. Slowdive will be reunited with their many, many effects pedals in Japan.

What are you even doing,VH1?

No, seriously, VH1... what the hell is this?

Underneath this, someone called Christopher Rosa burbles over a bunch of photos from the previous decade where you could, like, see the side of women's breasts and everything:
A key ingredient to wild pop star style of the 2000s was plunging—and we mean plunging—necklines
It gets worse as it goes along.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that: We’re firmly behind the Free the Nipple campaign that asserts women’s rights to go topless.
This might sound familiar to you. You're probably thinking of the bit in Knowing Me, Knowing You were Alan Partridge can barely contain himself talking about feminists wanting to burn bras.
These pop stars were basically before their time; with each dangerously plunging neckline, Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Xtina and the gang were telling us that women should get to show off their top-halves too. It really was the golden era.
Dude, you could see tits. And you didn't even have to hide in the bushes outside the nurse's home.
If you’re in the mood to walk on the wild side, check out these 10 almost nip-slip ensembles. We recommend jamming out to Britney Spears Pandora while browsing…you know, to get the full “dirty pop” effect.
And by "jamming out to Britney Spears" we're certain Christopher Rosa means "using a sports sock".

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tim McGraw slaps woman, sorrynotsorry

This weekend, Tim McGraw was playing a gig in Atlanta this weekend. His fans got a little bit boisterous, ripping at his jeans...

Wait a moment. Tim McGraw? People ripping at his clothing? Really?

Apparently so. Carry on.

So his jeans were tattered. One woman tried to grab the already rent garment, and McGraw slapped her.

Since then, he's had time to think about slapping a woman in the face for behaving like a fan at a Tim McGraw gig, and you know what? He thinks he did the right thing:

“Sometimes things can lose context and perspective. I reacted in an instinctive, defensive way from my perspective of what was going on,” he told [TMZ]. “I think it was an unfortunate situation I think all the way around. But it happened, it happened in a split second, it was pure instinctive reaction, I think you just got to move on.
Now, it's a while since anyone hit me (hard to believe, I guess, but it's true) but isn't the "let's move on" generally in the gift of the person whose face bears the imprint of the other's hand?
“It is one of those things that happen, nobody feels good about it, but there’s nothing that could be done about it,” the Grammy winner added. “You are in that position, you are out there, you are vulnerable, things happen and sometimes you react. There’s nothing to be said about it.”
Except you weren't really vulnerable, were you, Tim. Leaving aside the fact you were surrounded by security, generally the vulnerable end of a slapping is the one not attached to the hand.

It's good to see that McGraw doesn't feel good about it - although not as badly as the woman whose face he slapped, you'd imagine. But strange he can't think of anything that can be done about it.

Or, more precisely, given that any sort of apology might be taken as a weakness opening a door to a potential lawsuit, he can't think of anything that could be done.

Mind you, the woman's probably lucky. Given this was in Georgia, and they have a stand your ground law, she's lucky that McGraw didn't have a gun.

Soulobit: James Govan

James Govan, Memphis fixture and soul hero, has died.

Perhaps held back by being known as "Little Otis" than in his own right, Govan's work recently had been directed at Memphis tourists. Dean Rudland at Ace Records has been working to try and build a profile for Govan that matched his talent, releasing a collection of Govan's work for Fame last year.

Rudland told the Commercial Appeal why he got involved:

“He may never have become a household name, and the records he made were few and far between, but when he was allowed to record he made better use of that time than armies of inferior hit-makers.”

Govan had been in poor health since a stroke in 2012. He died Friday 18th July in Memphis at the age of 64.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Beyonce is put into a museum

Exciting news from Elle:

You'll note it's her "hotness" rather than her successes as a musician, entertainer or businesswoman that Elle thinks is being celebrated.

Still, this is a "major museum" - which could it be? The Smithsonian? The V&A? Maybe even the Guggenheim?

Which is it, Elle?
32-year-old Beyoncé isn't eligible for induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until 2022, but that hasn't stopped the museum from putting on an exhibit celebrating Queen B.
Oh. So it's a bunch of her outfits down by the Cleveland docks. This is news on a par with "is being added to the waxworks at Tussaurds."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How does this work, exactly?

Where's the best place to buy an iTunes exclusive album?

Er, Amazon, apparently.

This week just gone

A year of questions: 'why' search terms that have led to No Rock in the last twelve months:

1. No rock n roll why??
2. Why "thank god it's them instead of you" Bandaid?
3. Why do The Glammers keep their identity hidden?
4. Why is it always Dairylea, when the contract stipulated brie?
5. Why myspace did not tell anyone they was deleted your stuff?
6. Why no AC/DC on itunes?
7. Why no Beady Eye on BBC Glastonbury?
8. Why the internet is bad
9. Why was Gary Barlow in the wilderness for so long?
10. death and rock & roll: in your opinion, why do rock & roll stars live 38.9 years less than other people? what about the person who chooses that profession makes them live half as long as everyone else? make your case to the "jury" using the evidence

These came out, and might be interesting:

Slow Club - Complete Surrender

Download Complete Surrender

Icarus Line - Avowed Slavery

Download Avowed Slavery

Various - 8 Bit Operators Tribute to Depeche Mode

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Burke takes a long walk from Mandela gig

If you want to do a secret gig, you should really do a secret gig. Like the Mandela birthday gig coming up in Chalk Hill, which is so secret one of the advertised acts, Alexandra Burke, appears to not know how she even ended up on the bill:

The Bad Boys hitmaker was billed to appear alongside artists including former M People singer Heather Small, gospel musician Sandra Godley and Rwandan pop star Kitoko at the Nelson Mandela Day Concert in Chalk Farm, but she insists she was never booked for the charity gig.

Taking to her page on Thursday (17Jul14), she writes, "Despite being a worthy cause, I'm afraid I am not performing at the Mandela Day Concert this Friday.

"My performance has been advertised under false pretences. My fans know that I am currently performing in (stageshow) The Bodyguard. Sorry to disappoint anybody who has brought (sic) tickets thinking I was performing. No agreement exists".
The Groupon deal still has Burke's name attached to it (a Groupon? Oh, yes, that's a tribute to one of the greatest politicians of all time right there, isn't it?).

The good news? June Sarpong is still on board.

Yes, that's the closest we can get to good news.

Shh... it's a Jesus And Mary Chain secret

An email comes from a server with exciting news:

It's not actually a secret show if you're sending an email (to a list not BCCed), is it? Perhaps wind it in a bit for the email body:
Now in Dublin rehearsing for their upcoming festival and tour dates - and loving it - the Jesus and Mary Chain will play a low key date.
"Low key date" is a bit more accurate.

It's at Vicar Street, Dublin on July 31st. Ticketmaster are doing the ticketing, I'm afraid, so be prepared to pay unacceptable fees so that the costs of doing business don't have to eat into Ticketmaster's lovely, lovely profit base.

Pictures of Louis Tomlinson fail to purchase football club

The much ballyhooed takeover of Doncaster Rovers by Louis Tomlinson is about to collapse, as the Football League isn't impressed.

Of course, Tomlinson was never actually going to buy the club, but was instead helping a fan-funded trust purchase the team. But it's not working out:

The Trust's Crowdfunder total currently stands at £757,796 from 514 backers, well short of the £2m target. Tomlinson had declared that he was going to charge £250 per selfie, in order to raise money for the club.
It must be a bit galling for Tomlinson. I bet he's aware Harry Styles could probably raise enough from selling selfies to buy Man United. Or at least Everton.

The grown-ups who are helping Louis with the bid are a bit upset:
Clearly angered by the decision, [John] Ryan told BBC Radio Sheffield: "The situation is that the crowd-funder didn't succeed and we are very sorry about that but the real problem is with the Football League.

"They have made it so difficult now that unless you have a bag full of cash you are going to get turned down."
You can understand his frustration, but 'not raising the amount of cash required to ensure the team can function' does seem to be less a problem with the Football League and more about the people trying to raise the money.

Still: you can't purchase a medium-sized business with huge running costs and variable income streams without having a lot of money. Every day is an education, isn't it?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lady GaGa follows Jessie J's lead; returns bixesuality paperwork

Missed this at the start of the month, but caught up with it via the estimable and admirable Biscuit webzine: Lady GaGa has moved on from saying she's bisexual to, apparently, forgetting:

“Atlantic City Baby. Straights celebrating their pride by unLEASHING our gayness. @thedirtypearls @tommylondon Be proud. We were born this way. #TellemAsia”

… and so famously “bisexual” star Lady Gaga revealed to her Instagram followers that she now considers herself “straight”.
Usual caveats about how your sexual identity is, precisely, your sexual identity and that all our identities are fluid, of course; but even so... there's a lingering sense that maybe GaGa was wearing bisexual for exactly the same reasons she wore a meat dress: not because it was comfortable, but to try and get a reaction.

Kiran Leonard downgraded

Record of the Day allows Kiran Leonard eight seconds of glory before cruelly ripping off his award and handing it to We Were Promised Jetpacks instead: