Category Archives: Music Industry

Two book recommendations

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 10.00.32Its the weekend, so rather than talk shop I figured it would be nice to take a break and instead recommend two music books instead, as both are utterly fantastic.

John Higgs’ “The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned A Million Pounds” is possibly the best music-related book of the last couple of years. Now admittedly, I’m something of a KLF obsessive (and for those who’ve not heard me spin the yarn, I once faked an entire KLF comeback with my friend DJ Food), but even if you’re so-so on Drummond and Cauty this is still a fine read. The book isn’t a biography of the KLF per se; its more a journey through their career told via their influences. Taking in anything from Situationism to the Illuminatus Trilogy through to the number 23 and Doctor Who, what I love about this book is that it reminds you that now and again pop music can be both incredibly catchy *and* rather subversive at the same time. It doesn’t mythologise the band either, happily admitting that at times the band were guilty of retro-fitting theories around their actions (for example, Drummond cops to never having actually finished the Illuminatus Trilogy – a tome which carries arguably more KLF-related symbolism than anything, including the source of their “Justified Ancients of Mu Mu” title). The faintly comical part for me was the degree to which synchronicity carried so much weight in the book, purely because I then realised there were no small number of synchronicities between myself and the KLF too, as I’ve now worked with various people who also worked with the band back in the day. But I digress – do check the book out, its ace.

Continue reading

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Re: David Byrne’s article for the Guardian

Photograph: Chris Sembrot for the Guardian

Photograph: Chris Sembrot

I don’t really know what to make of this David Byrne article he wrote for The Guardian. I consider the man a hugely intelligent person who often presents other ways of viewing things… but in this instance I’m just not sure what his point is. He claims that mass availability will lead to the death of creative content and even the creative industries to some extent, but as countless people have proven that’s only the case if you’re viewing it within all the existing models that are out there. As Nicholas Jaar proved in his recent interview, there’s plenty of people finding models outside of the monopolies. It also doesn’t help that numerous figures he quotes in the piece have since been debunked as wildly inaccurate; it leaves Byrne open to criticism that he’s now speaking on a topic without full grasp of the facts.

I realise that makes me sound like I’m fully defending streaming media. I’m not; I accept that it could be argued that artists are getting ripped off in the context of this. Equally though, as Byrne himself acknowledges, that’s happened forever. That’s not to justify it happening – but in amidst that happening for centuries artists have still broken through, become successful and made a lot of money. It simply isn’t as black-and-white as he paints it out to be. I fear I’m starting to sound like a stuck record in saying this, but at some point this conversation needs to turn into a more constructive one in which ways to support artists and deliver revenue back are discussed and explored.

Tagged , ,

Amazon selling 258 song, 17 CD John Martyn boxset as a download for… £7.49

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 10.58.09My friend Andy just tipped me off as to this rather curious development: John Martyn’s “Island Years” boxset is available on Amazon for £150. Its a monstrous deluxe collection spanning 17 CDs and one DVD; quite the item for completists and hardcore fans (albeit at a pretty huge price to match). Its not just reissues of albums either; there’s a raft of previously unavailable music making this quite the collector’s item.

How come then, that the very same boxset is available on Amazon as a digital download – albeit sans DVD content – for just £7.49? [Update: link removed as item no longer available for sale]

I took a look around, and this boxset isn’t up on streaming services, nor is it on iTunes. So what gives? Have Amazon mistakenly made a digital version available? Is this some kind of exclusive deal?

The more I look around, the more I’m presuming this to be some kind of error on Amazon’s part. Certainly Universal have no reason to limit the availability of this item if they were making a digital version available, and to be blunt if they were picking an exclusive partner I’m not sure Amazon would be the one as they simply don’t generate much revenue for labels via the digital download side, where iTunes dominates the market completely.

So – can anyone shed some light on this? Only 258 songs for £7.49 may even beat streaming services in the “how little can music be sold for?” stakes…

Update: the keen-eyed Adam Webb has just informed me the same release is also on Play.com for just £1.99!

Update 2: The Amazon digital version has now been taken down, leading me to conclude this was a clerical error somewhere along the line. Play.com’s version remains on sale – for now…

Tagged , , ,

Thom Yorke vs Spotify: some thoughts…

Thom Yorke of Atoms for PeaceIts been a strange few days alright. I was in Dublin enjoying this fine band at Hard Working Class Heroes, then I was rushing home on Saturday as a close relative was hospitalised, and then on Sunday I was standing next to people dressed like this. Surreal? Just a little bit. And now, having had an enforced couple of days away from compiling the Daily Digest, I return to find… yet more news about Spotify, a company who I’m starting to think should be sponsoring the Daily Digest on the basis of their near-permanent presence on it.

I can’t deny that on some points I do feel a little conflicted. Given I’d expressed some reticence about Spotify’s “Follow” button last week, Yorke’s remark that “Spotify [are] suddenly trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process” is one I struggle to disagree with. Equally however comments like “We don’t need you to do it. No artists needs you to do it. We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off” are frankly pretty petulant at best and plain wrong at worst.

Here’s the thing: Spotify are just doing what any company will do. If not them, then Rdio, Deezer, Google, Beats or any of the other competitors. And if its not any of them, it’ll be someone else. That is just the nature of business. You can only change things by presenting an alternative of some kind. So, amid all Yorke’s comments of empowerment and how artists don’t need to do this, only one thing kept recurring in my mind: “do it then”. Because as long as you’re signed to XL, having come up via EMI’s pre-internet marketing machine, standing there criticising whilst offering nothing by way of a solution is once again starting to bring to mind images of Yorke and Godrich as Waldorf & Statler, parked on the side and heckling like all hell.

Don’t get me wrong: I think criticism is healthy (hell I’m doing it right now) but this debate either needs more people involved, or a fresh line. Without those, it will soon become a tired headline and interest will fade – at which point one could argue that Yorke may have done more harm than good by ensuring total apathy on the part of the consumer. So – will anyone else step up?

Tagged , , ,

The death of the turntable

I’m loving the new Rap Genius “Rap Stats” function where you can search any word and have the service index how much its been used in hip hop lyrics over the years. Here’s one for the DJs among you: the monumental death of the use of the word “turntable”:

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 08.56.53

Try it out for yourself here: http://rapgenius.com/rapstats

Tagged , , ,
Advertisements