Sunday, October 23, 2016

It's important to remember that Morrissey isn't racist

There have been few things more divisive in British public life this century than Brexit. And you know who can't hear the word "divisive" without deciding to share his view?

So, Morrissey. Tell us what you think about Brexit:

“As for Brexit, the result was magnificent, but it is not accepted by the BBC or Sky News because they object to a public that cannot be hypnotised by BBC or Sky nonsense. These news teams are exactly the same as Fox and CNN in that they all depend on public stupidity in order to create their own myth of reality. Watch them at your peril!”
Morrissey appears to be doing media studies at GCSE. I was half expecting him to add "you might say someone is a terrorist, but somebody else could call them a freedom fighter."

Morrissey, of course, doesn't live in Britain and when he visits he feels it's important to mention that he hears people speaking languages other than English, but obviously not in a racist way. In other words, he's pretty much prime UKIP material.

It's fascinating that he feels the most important thing about the result isn't anything to do with the EU, but merely proves something about the BBC. Naturally, living in America he'd be in the perfect position to judge the tenor of BBC News coverage of the referendum. In precisely the same way that a person living in Didsbury is able to tell you about the weather in Miami right now.

Pitchfork also reminds us that he's as addled and deluded about music as he is about, sadly, everything:
Later in the same interview, he discussed how his legacy as an artist is folded into the Smiths’ success. “The Smiths are listed as, for example, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees, because people generally think that the Smiths also covers Morrissey—which it doesn’t.” Though they were nominated for the Hall in recent years, the Smiths were not nominated this year.

Then, he said, “we have PJ Harvey as a Hall Of Fame nominee,” which also isn’t true (though this was the first year Harvey became eligible for nomination). He continued, “It can’t be argued that she has ever meant more than Morrissey in the USA, and needless to say I have never been a nominee.”
This is a man angry that someone who hasn't been nominated for something he hasn't been nominated for isn't, in his opinion, any fitter for the prize that they both aren't in the running for.

It's a bit like me getting angry that Nigel Farage's eligibility for the Nobel Peace Prize instead of me.

The claim that a Smiths nomination doesn't include Morrissey isn't right, either - individual members of the band are inducted, and I don't think you can be inducted more than once. And, let's be honest, Moz - your best chance is getting considered for Strangeways and The Queen Is Dead rather than Years Of Refusal and... your other solo albums. The one about the ring or something?

And as for meaning than PJ - admittedly, Viva Hate went gold in the US back in 1993, and Bona Drag managed to scrape gold after a decade on the racks. But PJ Harvey's records consistently enter the US charts - maybe not at such a level that Taylor Swift will be worried, but still enough to show she has a strong base of interest in the US. And she's still doing interesting work, rather than... well, just complaining about a lack of respect.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Radio 1: Still a country for old men

The Guardian has a fairly in-depth interview with Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper this morning, with a couple of interesting headlines.

The first is that Cooper wants Radio 1 to become "the Netflix of music radio":

“I want Radio 1 to be the Netflix of music radio,” he says, trundling out the catchy soundbite to back his latest plan: taking a leaf out of the hugely successful US streaming service’s book by making programmes available on demand.
But... the programmes already are available on demand, aren't they?

Turns out these are different programmes:
He is starting out with 25 hours of on-demand “phone-first” content, such as a weekly “Top 10 most-played tracks of the week” programme, but intends to seriously ramp up the hours next year. “In this job, you’ve got to keep across what young audiences are doing. They want content on whatever device they are using, increasingly the phone, when they want it, and that is the key for us to stay relevant and stay young.”
There's a few problems with this - if people aren't listening to Radio 1, why would they give a raspberry tuppence about listening to a programme which plays the 'most played' tracks? "Hey kids, those programmes you're ignoring? Want to listen to the sort of music they're playing that isn't encouraging you to listen to them?"

More importantly, if you were looking for a Netflix for music radio, you might think that's a space that Spotify are already in.

And Radio 1 as Netflix would only work if Netflix concerned itself solely with, say, romcoms and slasher flicks. If you're looking for something akin to Netflix, you'd need something that covers a range of styles and genres. Something like, ooh, iPlayer Radio.

To be fair, though, Cooper has had some degree of success at extending Radio 1 as a brand beyond radio - a large swathe of its audience never tune in on DAB or FM. On YouTube, Radio 1 is thriving, or at least doing as well as Zoella.

Then there's the Grimshaw question:
Meanwhile, shouldn’t he be more worried about Nick Grimshaw? Earlier this year, the station’s breakfast show audience reached its lowest level in more than 13 years. Grimshaw, who took over the coveted gig from Chris Moyles, is about to become older than the station’s average listener. After four years of trying, is his use-by date looming?

“I’m not operating Logan’s Run,” quips Cooper, referring to the 1976 sci-fi film where people get systematically vaporised when they turn 30. “Grimmy was asked to do a job and it was a difficult job. Chris’s job was to build the biggest audience he could, the most successful breakfast show Radio 1 ever had. The BBC Trust asked me to get Radio 1 younger so I brought in Nick to do that. Grimmy has come in and he is the No 1 youth presenter in the UK. He is knocking it out of the ballpark when it comes to connecting with young audiences on a daily basis.”
Is he the "number one youth presenter in the UK", though? If he is, why has he settled so comfortably into the X Factor Home for The Formerly Influential?

But then, the 46 year-old Cooper isn't going to willingly suggest the route to a younger audience is through a perpetually younger team, is he?

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Liam Gallagher calls for "mischief"

Liam Gallagher - or, since David Cameron's resignation honours, Baron Gallagher of Burnage - has called for more "mischief" from musicians:

Encouraging today's musicians to cause more mischief, Gallagher said: "There is no excuse for young bands to act like grown men. When you're older and have kids, cool it out a bit, but I get up to more mischief in my butcher’s than [they] do on their fucking tours. Maybe it's just where we're from."

He added: "I guess it goes back to the working-class thing. The shit-kickers aren’t breaking through. A lot of music these days is by middle-class kids."
That's right, a man who is so middle class he still visits a butchers is complaining about the lack of authentic working class voices.

He's doing this in a press junket to promote a film that dredges up the long-cold corpse of Oasis. You wonder, as you try to swim through all the attention this movie is getting, why young bands struggle to get their voices heard, don't you?

Sidenote: what fucking "mischief" does he get up to in his butcher's anyway? Asking how much the venison costs and then saying "that's quite dear?"

Producerobit: Kashif Saleem

The R&B producer Kashif Saleem has died.

Kashif was a multi-instrumentalist. He was a singer. He was a producer. And he was responsible for some great moments:

He wrote that. As a writer and producer, he sold over 70 million records in his own right. And then, through sampling, went on to provide the guts of millions more.

It's an unblemished record to be proud of.

Saxophonist Kenny G credits the multifaceted Kashif for launching his career.
Almost an unblemished record to be proud of.

Avril Lavigne is her generation's Paul McCartney

You know there are too many conspiracy theories when people are reduced to claiming that Avril Lavigne died and was replaced by an imposter in 2003:

A Brazilian blog post goes into an extreme amount of detail, looking at differences between 'old' Avril and 'new' Avril including height ("Avril was 1.58m in 2002 and now it's 1.55m - it's impossible!"), voice ("the double is soprano"), and even her nose and freckles.

"They are different physically, although they are almost identical," the conspiracy theorist wrote. "After all, they are lookalikes."

And apparently Avril changing autographs and fashion style is another piece of 'proof' that the Avril today is not the same as the one from more than 13 years ago.
You could just about see why The Beatles might have gone to the trouble of bringing in a ringer for Paul McCartney when he died at the age of 28, although nobody has ever explained why they'd have gone to all that subterfuge and then give the game away by effectively releasing an album sleeve with the words "THAT'S NOT THE REAL PAUL WE HAVE DONE A TRICK" all over it.

But had Avril needed to be replaced in 2003? Wouldn't you just have gone with someone else who could be a bit like Pink?

This week just gone

Most-read September stories:

1. 1Xtra's ticket sales fall apart
2. The Wolfhounds would like their publishing back
3. Pre-Coil Zos Kia music released
4. Bros come back… why?
5. Iron Maiden dump paper tickets

These were the new releases last week:

Warpaint - Heads Up

Download Heads Up

Billie Marten - Writing Of Blues And Yellows

Download Writing Of Blues And Yellows

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry - Shine A Light

Download Shine A Light

Heidi Talbot - Here We Go 1, 2, 3

Download Here We Go 1, 2, 3

Skylar Grey - Natural Causes

Download Natural Causes

Beach Slang - A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings

Download A Loud Bash...

Friday, September 30, 2016

Turn your roaming on: LoneLady & the LRM have hidden treasures

What could be better than a treasure hunt that doesn't involve you having to fight a pirate to get a map, or spend hours in a field with a metal detector discovering just how many Grolsch bottle tops have been scattered over East Anglia through the years?

And this hunt has treasure worth finding, too:

LoneLady has collaborated with The LRM (Loiterers Resistance Movement) and created a new track called The Street is Your Playground: A Psychogeographical Sat Nav.

Just 23 copies will be printed and 10 are prizes in our treasure hunt. Tokens have been hidden across Manchester and clues posted on The LRMs twitter feed @thelrm facebook page and website. So far only one has been found…

The free music is available until October 14th – coinciding with The LRMs 10th anniversary exhibition Loitering With Intent: The Art and Politics of Walking at People’s History Museum.
If you need any further inducement to get involved, you can listen to the prize over on Soundcloud. But it's LoneLady, so you know it's going to be wonderful.

Twenty-two remain. They're waiting for you. Go look.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Wolfhounds would like their publishing back

Back in 1987, young, fresh-faced band The Wolfhounds signed a deal with Working Music for their publishing. What happened next is a common story of young people being screwed over by a multinational:

By 1989, the company had gone bust and its property – the songs of its contracted artists – were subsumed into Warner Chappell, its parent company.

However, none of The Wolfhounds ever received any payment or statement from either Working Music or Warner Chappell, and instructed their solicitors at the time – Stevens Innocent – to give notice of termination for breach of contract, and to have their song copyrights returned to the authors. Through their own solicitors, Warner Chappell claimed that none of our songs had ever earned any money, despite the fact that we had received payments from the Performing Rights Society for the songs, been played on the radio numerous times and played hundreds of gigs, all of which meant that royalties were coming in. The band has irrefutable documentary proof of this.
As if that wasn't shitty enough, WC have also taken the songwriters' individual names off the copyright.

Because WC don't seem capable of doing the right thing - why would they want to hang so desperately on to publishing rights they claim have never earned a single brass tuppence anyway? - there's a petition calling on them to talk to the band.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Zos Kia: Pre-Coil uncoiled

You might have thought that everything that could have been re-released has already been re-released, and that we're now in an era where the reissue industry is just bringing things round for a second or third time.

But there are still gems waiting to be brought back to life:

Zos Kia was a group made up of Coil's John Balance, Mekon's John Gosling and Min, as well as occasional contributions from Throbbing Gristle's Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson. Their one and only album, Transparent, was released in cassette format in 1983 as the first released recordings of the group, even before any Coil music was released, by the now closed Austrian label Nekrophile.
As The Quietus reports, Transparent is about to get a reissue. Or, if you don't count tape-only releases, an issue.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

This week just gone

We've been on holiday - these were the recommendations before we went:

Slow Club - One Day All Of This Won't Matter

Download One Day...

The Oh Sees - A Weird Exits

Download A Weird Exits

Wild Beasts - Boy King

Download Boy King

Lisa Hannigan - At Swim

Download At Swim

Dinosaur Jr - Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not

Download Give A Glimpse

65daysofstatic - No Man's Sky

Download No Man's Sky

Saturday, September 24, 2016

They've been torn since Bros was cool

Your first instinct on hearing that Bros are reforming for a ten million quid tour is "ten million? Is it buggery going to be a ten million tour."

They've not even got Ken on board, right? (Craig Logan isn't coming back.)

But it's more an indication of how fucked the economy is - there's not going to be much profit in a Bros tour, but with interest rates now so low, they don't have to make much of a profit to make it worthwhile. Or at least a better investment than letting money sit in an account.

And, with the pound having been sunk by the Brexit vote, and much of the tour is in Europe, which ratchets up the relative costs in pounds.

So, the ten million pound comeback isn't suggesting that Bros are more popular than you thought. Just that ten million pounds is less than you'd hope.

Iron Maiden dump paper tickets

Iron Maiden have announced that their forthcoming tour is going to be "paperless":

Iron Maiden have announced their new UK tour will be their first in the country to use paperless tickets. Bruce Dickinson’s band are aiming to cut down the amount of tickets listed for “ludicrously inflated” prices on resale websites. Fans will not receive printed tickets for the group’s May arena tour, but will have to present photo ID and a credit card when they arrive at the show. “We do not want our fans being ripped off either by counterfeit tickets or through costly mark-ups on so-called secondary ticketing websites,” manager Rod Smallwood said in a statement.
It's the first UK paperless tour - although they did one in the US.

Not clear what happens if your change credit cards in the nine months between buying tickets and the gig, though. Or what happens if you plans change before the gig.

Puff drops a million to his alma mater

Puff Daddy has given a million dollars to the University he went to:

Puff Daddy has donated $1 million to the Howard University in Washington D.C.
Mr Daddy was a business student at Howard, and nowadays he's nudging close to be worth a billion.

If you wanted to be cynical, you might notice that he dropped out of the university after two years. But if Howard have their wits about them, they'd be running "if you can become a billionaire with just two years with us, imagine how great you'd be if you graduated" ads.

Nick Jonas is doing it for the art

Nick Jonas. He's had sex you know.

"Any time I approach writing a song I think about the fact that since I started having sex my creative life changed dramatically, and my ability to write a song with more genuine depth, more reality."
Any time? Really? Any session of songwriting starts with Nick thinking "I am great at sex, me. Probably the best at sex."
"Sexuality is important as an artist, to embrace and use it as ammunition in your creative life, and understanding that part of your life, and how it makes you feel."
There's nothing as wonderful as that moment when two people just click, and you're loading ammunition into your creative life. It's magical, isn't it?

Other careers: One Direction to 18 holes

Niall Horan has branched out since One Direction. Into, erm, golf:

The 1D star, who runs a golf talent agency, is off to Minnesota next week to act as cheerleader for the Europeans.

Niall, 23, told me: "I think I'm going to be involved with the Ryder Cup team to try to do a bit for them and help them concentrate on their golf.

I would have been going there anyway because the Ryder Cup is one of the ones you have to tick off the bucket list. I'm looking forward to it.
There's a lot going on here. If you care about golf so much you run a golf business, the idea that "going to the Ryder Cup" is just a bucket list item seems a bit weird - especially if you have a money-no-object lifestyle.

That's to say nothing of the idea that professional golfers at a major golfing tournament might need help to "concentrate on their golf"; or that the best way to help with this concentration is to have a pop star-turned-golfing Arthur Daly turn up.

And there's that vague "I think" - if it's next week, shouldn't you know whether or not you're going to be involved? Or will this come as news to the European golf team?

Monday, September 05, 2016

1Xtra ticket sale falls apart

You would have hoped that the BBC would have enough tech savvy to avoid a 'ticket sale fail', but...

Two hours ago they put their Liverpool 1Xtra tickets on sale:

And the system fell over almost instantly:

So they pulled the sale:

Trouble is... they'd already been on sale sort-of long enough to cause problems:

And that really needed a clear answer. But all it got was this:

- which doesn't really answer the 'you have taken my money, have I got tickets' question.

And, unsurprisingly, people are pissed off with not just the flop, but the lack of any real clarity about what's going on:

The BBC is struggling to keep an audience with younger people. This isn't the way to build that trust.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn is taking on Napster

Today was Jeremy Corbyn's big digital plans launch. If we boil it down to 'I don't really understand this sort of thing but it's important so I guess we should do... something' it sort-of-all-works as a first stab.

But the detail. Oh, the detail:

Downloading music for free sounds fine, he says. But this means musicians do not get paid. That is why digital rights are so important. He says he has not produced the last word on policy on this yet.
Yes, much as some aspects of Corbyn's industrial policy are still based on the 1970s, his digital rights policy seems to be fixated on sometime around the first flush of Napster.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The X Factor - it's like a total amateur contest

The X-Factor. It's back, apparently. And busily giving a leg-up to acts who wouldn't stand a chance going through normal channels.

A group called Yes Lad did well in the opening weekend of the season.

I don't know this because I watched it - I know it because their, erm, agents sent me an email to tell me.

Two things.

First: what the hell is a group in a singing contest doing with agents already?

Secondly: Yes Lad isn't the name of a band. It sounds like a rejected Arthur Mullard catchphrase.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Jaime Harding goes inside

Sad to hear that Jaime Harding has been sent to prison - sad to hear that his life, which he had got back on track, has fallen apart again.

The band have issued a statement:

- AUGUST 2016 -

"It is with great sadness that we unfortunately have to inform Marion fans of Jaime's incarceration at Strangeways (HMP Manchester), following his arrest due to drugs earlier this year.

This forces us to now cancel the planned Marion live shows for 2016, which we had scheduled following prior notification that Jaime's case would not be dealt with until December.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the disappointment and any inconvenience caused, Jaime is devastated at this outcome and we can confirm that the Marion shows will be re-booked at the earliest opportunity upon Jaime's release. Please stay tuned to here and for updates.

In the meantime, we can end this statement on a positive, with the exciting news that Marion's UK Top 10 selling debut album 'This World and Body' will be reissued as a 3 CD Deluxe edition (with reissued Vinyl to follow) and Marion's Johnny Marr produced 2nd album 'The Program' will also be reissued as a 2 CD Deluxe edition, all through Demon Music Group's Edsel Records on 16th September 2016, with the CD Deluxe editions already available for pre-order on Amazon.

Following on from Edsel's Deluxe CD releases on 16th September, Demon Records will release a special 20th Anniversary Edition of Marion’s debut album 'This World and Body' on 180g Red Vinyl on 4th November 2016, which is now available to pre-order."
I'm not sure the best place to plug your reissues is a post about your lead singer being incarcerated because he burned his girlfriend's clothes when she refused to answer his calls, but I suppose more people will have visited the Marion website as a result of this news than would have come in the last year.

This week just gone

The most popular search terms so far this year:

1. No rock and roll fun
2. Is kt tunstall gay
3. Noel gallagher gay
4. Das psycho rangers
5. Simon bates
6. Drybaby
7. Suede glastonbury 2015
8. James blunt naked
9. Morrisons supermarket playlist
10. Amy Winehouse bondage

These had just come out the last time we updated the side bar:

Johnny Foreigner - Mono No Aware

Download Mono No Aware

Puro Instinct - Autodrama

Download Autodrama

O'Hooley & Tidow - Shadows

Download Shadows

Hellions - Opera Oblivia

Download Opera Oblivia

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Eurovision 2017: Already falling to pieces

To think we were all alarmed when Ukraine won Eurovision this year - would it make things tricky having them host?

We were worrying over nothing, I'm sure.

It'll all be going swimmingly:

It was supposed to be Eurovision's big announcement about exactly where next year's contest will be, but it went a bit wrong.

The 2017 competition is in Ukraine but the host city is yet to be decided.

Fans were told it would be revealed on Youtube Live at 2pm, Thursday, but it didn't happen.

Eurovision organisers said they needed to cancel until further notice and there was no immediate explanation as to what was going on.
So, there's no reason to worry at all. They'll come up with somewhere, I'm sure. I'm sure.

Everytime I turned on the radio, there was somebody else, singing a song about the two of us

Courtney Love believes that most of the songs written in the 1990s were about Courtney Love:

“I remember I used to date this movie star in the ‘90s and we were listening to KROQ,” she continued. “Of six songs in a row, five of them were about me. I told him that, and he was, ‘No, they aren’t!’ I was, ‘Yeah, they are. I dated every one of those guys, dude.’ He was like, ‘You’re such a slut!’”
You'd hope at this point that Courtney kicked the "movie star" in the nuts at the suggestion that having had a lot of songs written about her was "slutty"; the only thing you can really say it proves is that Love has a type.

But this is the 1990s, which wasn't the happiest of times for Courtney, so it's possible she's misremembering the story, or - perhaps more plausibly - that she's remembering something she thought happened. It's possible she was playing a Hole CD when this happened rather than listening to the radio.

Standon update

If you read the piece last week about how Standon Calling has somehow hit difficulties in returning money locked into its cashless wristbands, it probably won't surprise you to know that yesterday's promised deadline for returning the cash floated by again without a recharge.

Shrewed move, making the promise for the start of a Bank Holiday Weekend...

Labour: I pity the Foos

The Labour Party - increasingly the Freddie And The Dreamers of British politics - is having a torrid time of it at the moment, as it struggles to try and find a leader who can get through the day without making Theresa May giggle with joy.

In the midst of the current leadership election, the party is beset by the political version of Do You Remember Bagpuss - purges, entryism, jokes about Derek Hatton's suits. I'm half expecting to switch on the Ten O'Clock News to catch a package where Jamie Theakston, Kate Thornton and Stuart Maconie try to remember the lyrics to The Red Flag.

Ah, but purges are awkward things, and apparently a Labour Party member has been suspended for the oddest of reasons. At least according to the Daily Mail:

Labour has suspended a new member from the party and denied a vote in the leadership election after she posted about her love of rock band Foo Fighters on Facebook.

Catherine Starr, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, was shocked to receive a letter from the party's General Secretary Iain McNicol telling her that following a vetting procedure she was being refused full membership as she had 'shared inappropriate content on Facebook'.

It said this related to a post on March 5 when she had shared a clip of Dave Grohl's band and wrote 'I f****** love the Foo Fighters'.
We should approach this all with a level of caution - we're living in a weird period of politics where you can't even trust an old man sitting in a vestibule, and this is the Daily Mail whose last honest piece of reporting on the Labour Party was "Kinnock resigns".

To be honest, it's not clear that Starr was suspended over a Foo Fighters post - the Mail does concede she'd been sharing other prime content that day:
That day Mrs Starr, 33, had also shared a friend's inoffensive poster about animal free cosmetics and a cartoon about veganism.
You know how much the Mail loves animal rights, right?

It is possible that the NEC has some ongoing beef with the Foo Fighters. Or maybe they see "Foo Fighters" as some sort of code for those who have recently joined the Labour Party for nefarious purposes.

It's much more likely that a party which has raised the bar on disarray to a level which would be offputting to Ekateríni Stefanídi have made an honest mis... okay, a dishonest mistake. They probably got the day of the offending post wrong, or the name of the offending poster wrong, or maybe confused the Foo Fighters and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

The party hasn't responded to the story yet, but almost certainly will deny it, admit it but say the details are wrong, look crossly over its spectacles at us, and pretend to never have heard of the Foo Fighters. All at the same time.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Svenagliobit: Lou Pearlman

Here's a sentence that might bring you up short:

Figures from the pop music world have paid tribute to Lou Pearlman, the founder of Backstreet Boys and Nsync, who has died in prison aged 62 while serving a 25-year sentence for a $300m (£229m) fraud.
Yes, the death of Lou Pearlman, without whom we'd not have had Backstreet Boys on NSYNC, has got those who owe him everything trying to thank him while not upsetting those from whom he took everything.
The Nsync singer Lance Bass tweeted: “Word is that #LouPearlman has passed away. He might not have been a stand up businessman, but I wouldn’t be doing what I love today without his influence. RIP Lou.”

The US singer Aaron Carter also paid his respects on Twitter:

#LouPearlman my old manager died in prison... Rip Lou not the best business guy really at all but he did discover me karma is real
"Not the best business guy" is how you'd describe someone who tries to sell hamburgers at a vegan festival. Pearlman was a disgraceful con merchant - and even Bass' "not a stand-up business man" doesn't really come close to how huge his deception was:
According to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, at the time of Pearlman’s investigation he owed his investors $96 million, but had less than $15,000 in the bank. The investigation found that Pearlman’s records neglected to show the more than $38 million he had withdrawn for himself and his companies.
You can see why Bass - one of the minority of people who shook Pearlman's hand and came away with the same number of fingers he started with - would be trying to look on the positive.

He ended up in such disgrace that when the Hollywood Review met with Pearlman in jail, you could hear Simon Cowell walking away backwards from a claim to kinship:
So yes, he is well aware of record-breaking pop juggernaut One Direction and boasts, "I know if I was out there, we'd give One Direction a run for their money." He reminisces about his "friendly rivalry" in the '90s with that band's puppeteer, Simon Cowell. (Responds a spokesperson for Cowell: "Simon hardly knows him. They were only ever introduced once, and there wasn't any kind of friendly rivalry.")
And that's before you even get to the rumours of sexual abuse, most deeply investigated by Vanity Fair in 2007:
In the November issue of Vanity Fair, Pearlman, for the first time publicly, is described by several former singers, aspiring singers and their parents as a lecher, who used the same deceptive charms to cop cheap feels off teenage boys as he did to allegedly bilk 1,400 investors out of more than $300 million.
Talking to The Hollywood Reporter from prison, Pearlman offered a watertight defence:
He adds that fellow inmates have come to know the real Pearlman through the years and never hassle him about the molestation charges: "They realize that none of that can be true."
'The guys on B Wing don't think I'm a nonce, so how could I be?'

The only trouble with this is that while he's saying he's not a sexual abuser, he also denies having run a ponzi scheme too. In fact, the only thing faster than Simon Cowell trying to distance himself from Pearlman is Pearlman trying to distance himself from the likes of Bernie Madoff. Pearlman insists that he was different because he had a way of making money to repay those he fleeced.

Which is puzzling, as a lot of people invested in a fleet of airplanes which turned out to exist solely as photos in a glossy booklet.

Lou Pearlman was 62. He'd been due to stay inside until 2029.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Standon orders

Last month was Standon Calling, and we went to the first day.

There's a bit of a problem, though.

Not with the festival itself - well programmed, lovely location, friendly staff. The Hives were an amazing amount of fun, and they goaded Suede on to giving a brilliant performance.

The problem, though, is with the cashless nature of the festival.

Your wristband becomes your wallet; once inside the festival ground all transactions flow through the little RFID chip on your arm.

I can see the attractions - you don't have to worry about accidentally dropping all your cash into an unpleasant toilet; you shouldn't have your money pinched; it makes waiting behind people as they fumble in their pocket for a card that hasn't been maxed out a thing in the past.

The trouble is, this is a bit of a fiction: unless you're turning up at the festival, Lenin-style, in a sealed train, you're still going to need to have cash and cards on you to buy pasties and petrol en route.

And while removing the payment point as a potential focus for clusterfucks developing, that's not really the cause of slow moving queues at festivals. Sure, paying is a breeze, but you still have to wait ten minutes for a coffee between bands while a family of ten take their time choosing between three types of waffle topping.

There's also something a little philosophically worrying about the idea that you're entering a place where every piece of business transacted on the site is channelled through the hosts.

In action, though, it definitely worked - "here, you have given me a tub of delicious macaroni cheese, in return point your little device at my wrist" is a pleasingly friction-free transaction.

The background organisation, though, wasn't as friction-free.

First, there's the problem of having to preload the wristband. This has to be done in advance, which means I'm having to surrender the liquidity in that amount to Standon.

In other words, the cash that gets locked into the wristband is no longer available to me to spend as I wish - if between preloading and the festival day, I need to suddenly purchase a papermaiche swan with that money, I am unable to.

This might sound like the sort of point that barely matters outside of GCSE economics, but it's important because attendees have no choice but to take part in this scheme.

There's a structural problem, too, of knowing how much to put on the wristband. You don't want to overload it - because you're losing that liquidity - but you also want to have enough to ensure that you're not going to have to face queues at the places in the festival where you can add more money to the band. (Yeah, you can do that - apparently, although the festival is totally cashless, there are sheds where sterling somehow still works.)

We were going for a day, and figured that between the pair of us we'd probably spend about thirty quid. (I've more or less stopped drinking alcohol, and try to avoid buying 'stuff' that is going to need to be carried in the front row. Also, I'm incredibly cheap.)

Here's a problem, though - if we were using money, or cards linked to our joint accounts, it's not a problem if one of us bobs to the bar or the macaroni cheese stall to get food or drink. That notional money flows easily between us. Not so with wristbands, where the money is linked to our actual physical presence. I can't say 'go get yourself a drink at the bar', I have to be at the bar to buy you a drink.

Still, at least you can have a decent stab at preloading the amount you need, right?

Not so much.

Because you preload in £25 increments.

Somehow, a system which allows you to pay £1.50 for a cup of coffee without a problem doesn't allow you to decide exactly how much you wish to spend.

Between the two of us, then, we're expecting to spend about thirty quid on the day. But we're forced to hand over fifty to Standon, in advance, to hold.

What if you underestimate what you load? Well, yes, you can go to the queues to top up - awkward if you're halfway through buying a pizza when you realise you're out of funds.

Helpfully, though, there's an autotop up facility. When you preload, you can choose to allow the organisers to notice when you are low on wristband cash, and take a fresh payment to allow you to carry on spending.

The minimum amount you can allow this to happen with is twenty quid; but you can choose an option to allow sixty quid a time to be moved from your bank outside the site, onto your wrist. To sweeten the deal, if you click on this option, Standon will give you money to spend in the bar.

And if you're as cynical as I am, you'll be thinking "when people are bribing you with beer to do something, that's got to be something you're not going to want to do, right?"

You're allowing a business to dip into your bank account or credit card and help itself to money at will.

But why would that be a problem?

Everything's regulated by terms and conditions, isn't it?

This is where it gets really murky. There is a link on the page about cashless on the Standon website to terms and conditions, and when you hand the cash over, you have to agree to those t&cs.

Trouble is, the terms and conditions are useless. (I've saved a copy of them for when the website changes.)

They're terms about the ticket registration, not about the cashless transactions. Sure, they're mentioned:

Cashless payment service (see further under 4.3.1.)
There is no clause 4.3.1, and section 4 is about intellectual property, not cashless transactions.

Amusingly, the intellectual property clause forbids saving any content from the website - which, in effect, bars you from saving a copy of the terms and conditions you've signed up to for future reference.

When I asked about the cashless terms and conditions, Standon pointed me back to the page that pointed at the pdf:

Except the pdf expressly says that it doesn't:

The present Terms of Service govern the use of the website [] and all of its sub-sites (hereinafter “Website”), housing that “online ticket registration service”. The present Terms of Service do not govern the RFID-services themselves, that may be subject of specific terms and conditions as determined by Standon Calling and / or third parties.
No explanation of who is holding your money, or where it is. No rights to reclaim. No indication of how much all the infrastructure is costing, or any fees levied on transactions. If I have a dispute with a trader, do I take it up with them or with Standon, or the PlayPass company who is running the system? What happens when the festival is over and I want my unspent money back?

It's pretty shabby way of handling people's money. And with 10,000 people attending, even if they're all as cautious as me and only load the barest minimum amount, that's quarter of a million quid we're talking about, being put somewhere, with no proper contract. The truth is, there's going to be a lot more cash involved.

And what of the unspent money? Inevitably, this is a circus, too.

Although your wristband is linked to your account, and your account is linked to the bank which you used to load the wristband with, and they've managed to track your transactions as you move around the site, somehow this data falls apart when you leave the site.

You have to reclaim the money. Rather than it being returned automatically.

And you can't reclaim it as soon as you're done. You have to wait.

Then you fill in a form, and wait again.

And... inevitably, eleven days after putting in a request for my own money to be given back to me, in comes an email:
Hi Everyone,

Alex here, Founder and Director of Standon Calling festival.

As you may know it is now fourteen days since we launched refund requests for any outstanding balance on your 2016 festival wristband.

We had hoped to begin payments today. Unfortunately, and with regret, this timeline has had to change. We will now process all requested refund payments by Friday 26th August.

I would like to offer my sincere apologies to those awaiting their refund. I understand this has been a frustrating process.

Overwhelmingly, feedback on the 2016 cashless experience at the festival has been positive. It is a shame then for you to experience this delay on your refunds.

Be assured we are working with Barclays to process refunds as efficiently as possible. We have learnt lessons from this experience and I am committed to an improved refund system in 2017.
Assuming that this new timetable is stuck to, that's a month after the festival. Four weeks to get back money that you had no choice but to pass to Standon on trust.

It would have been nice for some sort of explanation as to why there's this delay - there didn't seem to be a problem with the system when it was being used to turn wristbands into gin at the bar and - presumably - the cash was being held in a separate, secure account and not just sloshing about in the general Standon accounts, right? Right?

If only there were some terms and conditions governing this, but - that's right - there weren't any.

Now, it's only a few quid, and I'm not exactly sweating on it. But there's a principle here, that Standon are telling customers they're going to look after money for them, that it's a better experience - and then when asked to stump up the refunds, they're patting their pockets like Terry-Thomas when the restaurant bill comes round.

When I started going to festivals, I was at a time in my life when a shopping trip meant adding every penny in a running tally in my head. The ticket was a luxury, but I figured that the experience was worth it and if it meant a couple of weeks on No Frills beans, that'd be fine.

If getting home I discovered that the money I needed to buy the beans, though, was being held for no apparent reason in the account of the organisers, I think I'd have the right to be very pissed off indeed.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

This week just gone

The most-read July stories:

1. Lily Allen's barbecue chums
2. Louise Mensch turns the Bataclan into terrorporn
3. The entitlement of Bring Me The Horizon
4. Bookmarks: Bow Wow Wow
5. RIP: Alan Vega
6. Franz Ferdinand lose a member
7. Viv Albertine unerases the punk women
8. Pop papers: The NME has a cause
9. Bob Geldof doesn't like your trousers
10. The Rolling Stones don't like Trump either

These were out last week:

Martha - Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart

Download Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart

Lou Rhodes - theyesandeye

Download theyesandeye

Faun Fables - Born Of The Sun

Download Born Of The Sun

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Emerson resurgent

"Hang about... why are we paying Keith double?"

Emerson downgraded

"Keith, we're not going to make you leave the band. But..."

Sunday, July 24, 2016

This week just gone

Last week's interesting releases:

Jack & Amanda Palmer - You Got Me Singing

Download Oddments Of The Gamble

Nonkeen - Oddments Of The Gamble

Download Oddments Of The Gamble

Various - Eleven Into Fifteen

Download Eleven Into Fifteen