Friday, October 9, 2009

The state of Spotify?

I am something of a Spotify obsessive. I believe that it can play a major role in the future of the music industry, I just fear that it may not be allowed to.

In prior blogs I have doubted that the current advertising and subscription model could work, I believe it can - but not at the current price.

Today Spotify founder Daniel Ek writes eloquently to/in The Times and makes some excellent points about the industry as a whole.

To an extent it's a vicious circle, a catch-22: the advertising-model will only work when they reach a vast number of users and the company will only last when it achieves the right balance of subscribers to free-users.

For the ad-model to work they probably have to crack the States, where Spotify is still not available. One label is holding out on them and Ek's letter and the subsequent news-article are part of the ongoing process in attempting to change that situation. He needs to buy time.

They are interesting arguments, but if Ek succeeds in re-modelling the price of streaming (to his company) the labels may find themselves besieged by radio stations and similar music-broadcasting companies also wishing to re-negotiate their rates. It should be noted that radio stations in America work under different rules relating to payments for their music, an explanation of which can be found here and here

Though I have vested interests in saying so, I strongly believe that radio will play an ever-increasing role (in the UK particularly)in the divisive areas of streaming and music discovery. UK radio is uniquely placed in already having agreements with the labels & publishers, as well as direct relationships with the artists which could see it moving to a different level.

Streaming itself may well (eventually) succeed in killing the illegal download, removing the motivation or necessity to do so, but if we believe that file-sharing exists because of pricing issues then it may be that the Spotify subscription price may also have to change.

Friday, September 11, 2009


So apple approved spotify for itunes, people were surprised. Perhaps they forgot the business that apple are in - selling hardware. itunes exists as a means to an end, to supply music/apps to ipod devices. As anyone who sells to it will testify - itunes is not a brilliant retail platform, it is functional at best. It has the massive market-share as a result of the desirability of the devices, not by being retailer of the year.

It remains to be seen whether spotify is the itunes killer. Given that the spot-app is only available to those paying the premium I would suggest not. As usual there are economic reasons why I feel this way. Spotify premium is £9.99 per month and, whilst it has some great bells and whistles, you still don't own the tracks. In essence it just adds to their portability.

Given that most people go to itunes for single tracks (£0.79 to £1.29ish?) and single tracks are seen as the future perhaps the Spotify premium fee will be the hurdle that is just too high.

At the initial advent of Spotify many of my colleagues had predicted that the natural route for itunes to take would be full-track-previews. Perhaps they didn't fancy the fight with the labels to acquire such rights, maybe they've moved on.

Some of those same friends and colleagues are now convinced that apple are getting a large chunk of the Spotify premium fees, in time this may or may not be proven. If, as many believe, Spotify's business-plan is to build the numbers then sell-out this may well be true.

In the week that they were added to itunes Spotify UK went back to being 'invite-only' for non-premium subscribers. This was either very clever or very stupid - at the time that you get your best press you remove the option of the free trial. If you want to move people on from file-sharing-freeloaders to heavy-streamers it is certainly a big mistake.

In the meantime apple just sell more devices, and one of the additions to the new nano - an FM radio. Once wi-fi becomes king, broadband becomes super-reliable everywhere and the iphone is the device du jour maybe we don't need Spotify as we'll have access to any radio station on the web, including those new ones that let you choose the songs........

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The path to hypocrisy?

I realise that this would only be ironic if they were blocking the cycle-path with a road sign for a festival of cycling, rather than one of motoring. This said it seems contradictory for any council that continually promotes itself as being cycle-friendly to block the paths with anything at all.

This is one of Coventry's busiest roads - there were two to three blockages along the path which runs up the Kenilworth Road on either side of the busy A45. As these events take place in the nearby Memorial Park all the time I guess I'll just have to get used to it. Sadly that stretch of cycle path is very useful for inexperienced riders like myself.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is Sweden ahead of the streaming curve?

By the end of 2009 we might have a better idea of what exactly is going on in the digital world. When we can eventually analyse the accounts of record labels (a task I'll leave to someone more qualified)we might start to understand where the future is - whether it is downloads, physical product or streaming. Until then we have opinion and conjecture.

Published reports/features eminating from Sweden suggest that streaming is starting to take over. This feature from Swedish Wire states clearly that the Swedish arm of Universal is already earning more from Spotify than it is from itunes.

It seems like a bold statement, and others have their doubts. I imagine a few accountants in artist-management offices are very eager to see those account spreadsheets and royalty statements.

Spotify is of Swedish origin and Swedish Wire clearly likes to celebrate Swedish success, some of which may be due to recent Swedish legislation aiming to crack-down on downloaders and file-traders. With the UK Government suggesting similar enthusiasm for a crack-down perhaps the same will happen here - on the day after the legislation came into force Sweden noted a 30 per cent fall in web-traffic. Possibly the file-traders were spending their day trying to find the loop-holes.

As I indicated last week (below), I fear that artists now hold the key to Spotify's future. Its success in the home-market may be an indicator of future trends, or it may just be a red rag to the big bulls in the artist community.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spot the streaming problem

I have previously noted some of the ongoing difficulties plaguing the music industry with regard to downloads and streaming.

Everyone seems convinced that a subscriber-led streaming service will be the solution to illegal P2P downloading. Others have tried, but Spotify seems to be the industry and consumer favourite at the moment. The Guardian thinks it knows why, repeating a belief that has been circulating for some months - the labels have shares in Spotify

The Guardian seem to be suggesting that the artists will not see this cash, an allegation I'd have to question. If this belief begins to circulate it will lead to an inevitable exodus of artists from Spotify. Bob Dylan has already left the building

If it's all in simple mathematics then the digital problem still exists. I read in this week's edition of Music Week that Spotify in the UK is processing 10 million streams per day, which should result in a sixty thousand pound royalty payment (on standard current terms) to artists/labels every day.

If Spotify is currently getting £82,000 per month in ad revenues and has only 17,000 paying £120 a year for the premium service then there's a significant shortfall. The digital solution is still not an obvious one.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Free is still free, in Radiohead World

Backing up words with action, that's why we still love Radiohead.

The new song is available for download, free of charge:

While you're there you may want to pay for this one:

In memory of Harry Patch, proceeds from which go to the Royal British Legion.

Still Britain's most vital band.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A fair price?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or so they say. There are many though who believe that the internet is a free market for both thought and art. It’s been an interesting time for this debate – or at least for anoraks like me who have a vested interest in it. Let’s try to summarise the past few weeks, with appropriate links for you to explore further, should you wish to do so.

The RIAA vs. Tenenbaum

The Record Industry Association Of America (RIAA), the US record label trade body, sued student Joel Tenenbaum for illegally sharing licensed music via a P2P network. The RIAA has been quite active in the last few years in suing individuals whom they have been able to prove were involved in illegal file-sharing – uploading copyright controlled music for the use of others. Few of the cases get to court but Joel Tenenbaum sought the backing of Harvard lawyers to create what may become a landmark legal case.

In other countries the music-industry bodes, like the UK’s BPI, have pursued a different approach to file-sharing by actively targeting sites that provide the means/platform for individuals to ‘share’ rather than targeting individuals. So they’ve gone after Kazaa, Pirate Bay, etc. like (the original) Napster before them. The crux of this thought may be based in PR; they wouldn’t expect to get the sympathy of the media or other individuals by chasing down poverty stricken teenagers or students. The BPI has also made a major (media) case of pursuing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to control their individual users, something the ISPs, in the main, have resisted.

The crux of Tenenbaum’s defence has been that it’s unfair to pick on one individual for something that everyone is doing, and that his case should be subject to a ‘fair-use’ policy. The labels argue that if it’s illegal then it is illegal, end of.

The repercussions will go on, as will file-sharing because (as the next sections show) the World seems to have become skewed with regard to the rights of musicians.

60% don’t think musicians should earn from online music

In a recent survey of 2000 web users, 60% said they didn't think musicians should receive royalties when their music is downloaded online. The survey, conducted by 'network integration specialist' Telindsu, asked 2000 consumers a very specific question. Did they agree with this statement: I think musicians should derive royalties from their albums, singles and music videos that are downloaded online? Three fifths (1200) disagreed.

OK, it’s a small sample, and I have no statistical break-down on the age of the participants – a point which would probably influence the results quite radically – but I would hope that we’re all surprised that this many people question a musician's personal right to earn from their music.

It is probably the case that the record labels and copyright industries are doing a poor job at explaining why it is that the very concept of copyright exists in modern society, and the artists themselves have probably not helped.

When sites like Napster first emerged those musicians who came out publicly against them received widespread public disdain. The mainstream media – slavishly following public opinion – echoed these opinions and some artists, wanting to seem ‘down with the kids’, joined in by criticizing their record labels – a point which may have led people to believe that file-sharing is actually OK.

Those were the early days and we’re now in a mature, technologically advanced, marketplace – the arguments need to change and the artists need to stand up for themselves again. It’s a simple message really: ‘if you steal my music, how do you expect me to be able to afford to keep making it?’ Who is going to pay, not Chris Anderson it seems.

Chris Anderson’s long tail and the ‘free’ philosophy

Chris Anderson is editor-in-chief of future-techy magazine Wired. He’s what most people would call ‘a player’, a man of influence. One of his key creations was the terminology ‘the long tail’; originally a Wired article and later a book the long tail refers to the economics of the internet age – where the future of business will rely on selling lesser quantities of a greater range of products over a longer period.

His new book seems to argue that the future of business is actually ‘free’. I haven’t had time to read it all but the crux appears to be that if something can be made available digitally then it should also be free. That this information is contained in a book currently retailing for £18.99 might seem a bit ironic but I’d encourage you to obtain a free read (or listen) here.

To be fair to him he’s not essentially saying that people shouldn’t get paid for their work – otherwise he’d have probably wasted his time writing a book - but that there should be different methods of payment and probably different pricing structures. Personally I’d worry about who sets the price and how, in the future, we’re ever going to make money from any artistic endeavours. Do we have to get out our begging bowls, or is it all about the PR?

You gotta PRay to get paid

Spotify launched a clever PR offensive this week. The message was that they’ve developed an app for mobile use of the service but they were concerned that apple might not approve it for use because if you can stream things then why would you buy them from itunes? They were subtly accusing apple of potentially being anti-competitive; a commercial giant abusing its market-dominance? Heaven forbid, who’d have thunk it, perish the thought, etc.

Common consensus is that file-sharing may be a thing of the past if people can stream any music they want, for free. In the UK Spotify is our leading exponent of this – and very good it is too, I’m using it as I write this.

Educated commentators have always been concerned that it’s not a good long-term model and that Spotify can never hope to pay the labels & artists what they will eventually demand for the rights. Most Spotify users currently use the free model which gives you an advert after every four songs, but as every user will know the variety of advertisers and content isn’t vast, suggesting that the Spotify business model is very reliant on people upgrading to the £9.99 per month premium offering.
Notably the suggestion is that the mobile model will only be available to premium, i.e. paying, users and may therefore be the prime route for Spotify to take. If apple were to turn it down then as the key player in the mobile + music market they’d be dealing a serious blow to Spotify’s chances – and potentially the music business as a whole since it’s largely believed that the labels have a share in Spotify. Hence this week’s PR efforts.

Is there a conclusion?

Amusingly there was a banner ad on Spotify as I was using it, for Chris Anderson’s book. The caption was ‘get free for less’. As far as I can tell, free is free – but if no-one gets paid then nothing (of any worth) will get made.
Musicians have some work to do to illustrate the fact that they have to get paid, that people can’t live without money – unless they live with their parents of course.

If we assume that most of the people involved in file-sharing, those who think musicians shouldn’t earn from their online rights are under-25 then we may begin to understand why they do what they do, and think what they think.

Kids don’t understand the costs of living, some of them are barely aware that money doesn’t grow on trees. Through their influential role and hold over children musicians could help us educate them about economics – what things cost and why they should pay for them. Perhaps if they understood that some musicians have to live hand-to-mouth to create their art they’d be less willing to steal from them. Maybe.

The blogger's guide to artist management (part 2)

Having established (below) that I didn’t make a great job of it, you’ll hereafter appreciate that this fact doesn’t prevent me from sharing my opinions on the subject of music artist management. Sounding semi-educated without testing that ability is the role of every commentator, skilled, experienced or otherwise.

So, you want to manage talent? Frankly it’s a tough gig, and probably getting tougher. Breaking a band these days is harder than ever – there are more routes to ‘market’ or to the audience in general, but finding the right one and ‘exploiting’ it successfully is extremely difficult.

The future is a difficult territory to map. A manager needs to be aware of trends and understand the elements which will favour his or her act best. Some of this can be gleaned from looking at history and the career path of similar acts. This will be despite the fact that your act might like to think that they’re one of a kind.

In the past the aspiration of every artist was relatively simple, they all wanted to get a record contract, a deal with a label, in order to get their music released into the world. Success could be measured by the size of your contract, how many labels were fighting over you and what the winning company were prepared to put behind you.

People can now sit in their bedrooms and get music into worldwide circulation, getting people to notice and appreciate it is a different matter though. Getting people to pay for it is harder still.

The amusing, or distressing, thing is that after all the hype about ‘freeconomics’ and the ability of artists to create their own social networks thru and with their fans, this has still not resulted in bands having the ability to create their own break-through to global success. The latter element still seems to revolve around finding a large company to manufacture, distribute and effectively market your music. No-one has yet managed to do it solely; no-one can do it without help.

So, what are the roles of the manager? Part advisor, counsellor, life-coach, solicitor, publicist, entrepreneur, accountant and music business expert – combine some or all of those elements and you may be successful.

Everyone talks about the only money for artists now being in live performances, but in order to gain an audience you have to have created a name for yourself – and this is the element which remains the most difficult. A good manager has to know how to ‘cut-through’ and to make an act ‘stand-out’

A good manager acts as a conduit between the artist and the world at large, allowing his charges to create and vent their artistic temperament whilst he effectively ‘sells’ it. Some acts are capable of doing both but they are something of a rarity. If I were to list the key attributes a manager needs it might go something like this:

• An unstinting belief in his/her artist(s) tempered by a good sense of commercial reality.
• Deep pockets.
• An existing or recent link to a semi-successful act.
• A knowledge of the market – generally and specific to their act.
• Common sense.

Sounds relatively simple, but rarely is. The most difficult part might actually be in managing the expectations of the people you’re working with. It goes without saying that most acts have to possess incredible self-belief, a problem which finds most managers jettisoned – even when they may be on the verge of success. The roadside is littered with managers who found themselves surplus to requirements as a band signed to some label or other – simply because the label knew someone who ‘could do a better job for them’. Artists are frequently blinded by the promise of success; you can never expect the same loyalty that you may waste on them.

Given that it’s such hard and frequently unrewarding work, why does anyone take it on? Inspiration and belief is everything – occasionally you come across an act who you wholeheartedly believe needs to be heard by many more people. When this moment comes you’re possessed by a compulsion to do something. Whether you work in the music business or just love music these moments are like revelations, epiphanies – when you’ve had one you can do nothing but your best to make it work. That being the case I can only wish you luck.

The bluffer's guide to artist management (part 1)

I once thought I'd be a great band manager. Lacking in any real musical ability but having a deep love of music it seemed the obvious choice, a potential career path to run alongside my existing music journalism (which, frankly, has never paid). Then I tried it.

It was the mid to late 80's; the specific point in time has become slightly blurred by the passing of even more time. I was friendly with a number of bands in the general Birmingham area by virtue of hanging around in the wrong places, writing for local media, broadcasting for the BBC (locally) and promoting the odd gig on a random basis.

I had knowledge of music, media, marketing and publicity. I still have some of these skills, partly amplified by time and experience. Consequently I was invited by my friends in a band we should call Red Shoes (because that's their name) to help manage them.

Music managers of the time fell into three possible categories -

Close friends of the band who didn't mind cold-calling to get gigs and helping them to hump the gear around.

People with too much spare cash (but often not enough) who wanted to be in the music business, or to at least say they were.

Ex-musicians or recording studio workers, or people with existing 'successful' bands looking to expand their 'stable'.

None of the above was a reliable formula for success, but there seemed to be a glut of talent around and most of it went un-noticed. Sadly Birmingham was not considered 'cool' in music industry terms, certainly not on a level with Manchester or even Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield or Cardiff - all towns/cities that have been deemed to have a 'scene' at any point in the last thirty years.

Although the whole Stourbridge scene blew up in the period where I could've conceivably said 'I was there' and I knew a few bands that went on to great success there were a great many more that disappeared without trace. Were it not for recent developments you may have been able to say the same of Red Shoes.

That Red Shoes were accomplished musicians was a given, they wrote great songs and performed them well. The interplay between main vocalist Carolyn and guitarist/co-vocalist Mark was the core of the band and each was the perfect accompaniment to the other, personally and musically.

They slightly defied classification, something I should've played more on - albeit that this was a time when the best way to sell something was to compare it to something else. Right now we'd have termed it alt. folk/Americana but I don't think I'd even heard the term Americana at that time.

It was a period in time where r.e.m. were about to become mainstream but the vogue was for scuzzy indie guitars, shoegazing or electro-pop, Red Shoes weren't easily pigeon-holed and most labels didn't really know what they'd do with them. Perhaps my failings were in not being able to elucidate this for them - this is how it's going to work, and this is how you should sell it.

I probably lacked the self-confidence or self-belief to do this effectively. The one A&R man I did convince of their talents similarly lacked the budget and confidence to make it work, though he spent some time trying. He eventually quit the music business to become a missionary in Africa. I genuinely hope I wasn't in any way responsible for this.

This could easily have become another music business sob-story. Inexperienced manager wrecks hopes of genuinely talented band. For a long time it looked that it might go that way. I had made the mistake of combining friendship and business, things that rarely prove compatible, and when mixed neither usually survive. But........

Earlier this month Red Shoes released their debut album, Ring Around The Land. A masterful piece of work, completed with talented collaborators who understood and appreciated their art. You could say that it's at least 20 years too late, but there's no such thing as perfect timing - fortunately for them great music is timeless.

The full story, written by someone who can write and has a better understanding of music than me, is here. It is worth your time, this is a classic of the 'good will out', and true talent will overcome all adversity - but only as long as you stick at it.

Part two - the proper guide to band management is above.

Another qualified album review

The Red Shoes guide to Freeconomics is here, tells you a little of what you need to know about breaking through today, it was always about relationships:

pop is dead?

From the millions of words expelled into the stratosphere following Michael Jackson's death, one phrase rings truest: we may never see his like again. Take that in any way you chose, my point is that the king of pop may never be deposed - pop careers no longer have that longevity, new artists do not have the potential to sell the same quantity of music, artists are not allowed to develop that way. The king is dead, etc.

It's a problem that the music industry needs to address but seems unable to do so; we just do not appear to be creating mega-stars with cross-over potential and lasting appeal. There were many factors that contributed to Jackson's success but a combination of talent and timing was the primary one.

To this you can possibly add persistence. You may not have realised it but his major breakthrough album, Off The Wall in 1979, was his fifth solo release. It also followed a four year gap since his last album. The four initial solo albums were characterised by their lack of major singles - approx one per album - and 73's 'Music & Me' could justifiably have been called a flop.

Compare Robbie Williams' fortunes on his first solo release - he was in the similar situation of having been in a popular band, but the unfamiliar one of almost being dropped when his album looked like flopping. He was saved by the single, Angels, picking up heavy airplay but it was touch-and-go. Had he been dropped at that time he'd probably never have recorded another album and would've currently been back touring with Take That. It's open to opinion as to whether this would've been the best thing for everyone.

Current artists do not enjoy that level of backing from their labels, whatever the size of your deal it would normally be expected that one flop = dropped. Having taken a battering over many years labels cannot afford to fund risky prospects anymore, nor have they been keen to do so for some time.

This is not to attack record companies per se; accountants and bean counters have taken over most industries and we're all looking for the fastest-fix to financial constraints. There's no such thing as easy-money but can you really blame the labels for trying to guarantee success with short-term measures? It's all about protecting the investment.

The other problem is the market itself and the route to reach it. When Michael Jackson finally bloomed into pop mega-stardom in the 80's he was aided by the fact that there were fewer media outlets and they were powerful. The audience was concentrated on a smaller number of radio stations, magazines, newspapers and TV stations, meaning that a key record release could reach a maximum audience with substantially less effort than required now.

He also had the timely and simultaneous rise of MTV to exploit and the only way to really own the songs was to buy the albums. Will the planets ever align in the same way again? Who could potentially attain the same level of stardom, will any other pop star be known in every small town in every country of the world?

I know of no such artist, all the genres are so carefully segmented now that there are few edges to be blurred. Usher might be a very famous RnB act, Eminem might be a very famous Hip Hop act, Beyonce might be a hugely successful soul/RnB act, and they may all have crossover hits but none are ever likely to be a global phenomenon.

Another remnant of a bygone age? Talent and timing were everything, and the rest is 'history'.

slack blogging

I know. I've been slack. I'm about to post a few entries that originally featured on my weekly newspaper-site blog or here to be precise.

They are random thoughts on the state of the music industry, collected here to keep them in a sort of rational order, or possibly an irrational order. This will allow me to add appropriate links and shorter thoughts in the coming weeks.

That's the theory anyway.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Britain’s got psychological problems

In the wake of the Susan Boyle controversy Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden has said that it’d be ‘impractical’ for them to psychologically screen all entrants to the competition. She’s right of course, but instead of impractical she could also have used the term ‘counter-productive’. The entire joy of watching the initial audition process would be destroyed if they were to exclude people due to borderline personality disorders.

It probably says something about my personality but I have no interest in seeing people with moderate talent trying to prove their worth, I’m far more interested in the legions of the misguided and (possibly) psychologically-impaired who think that they have something special to offer, when in truth they’ve always just had special-needs.

The malignant spread of reality TV seems to prove that I’m not alone, clearly most couch-potatoes like a dose of delusion with their evening meals. We all like to laugh or gasp at the ‘hilarious’ efforts of those who believe themselves to be the next Madonna, or Elvis. It’s the modern-day equivalent of bear-baiting, or maybe it’s dog-fighting for non-chavs or bare-knuckles for non-pikeys. Seeing Cowell savage would-be contestants, tearing their hopes into tiny pieces, is a bizarrely-ritualistic form of entertainment taking us back into the arena with the gladiators and the emperor who can turn fate with a simple twist of thumb-up or thumb-down.

As the tabloids look to feast on the remains of the competition and carve their pound of flesh from its rotting corpse, the ‘qualities’ have been keen to establish whether ITV or the programme-makers could’ve done more to assist the psychological well-being of the contestants. To which the answer surely has to be, yes, but do they want to? It may be impractical to offer screening or testing to all contestants but they could’ve done more for those they knew to be at risk.

I may expand on this here, otherwise here's some other takes on the story.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Crime stoppers?

Another interesting anti-crime initiative, this one courtesy of Northamptonshire Police who are apparently about to spend their summer nights bellowing at residents who've left windows open.

Should this one spread I fear it may cause more crime, anyone - police or otherwise - waking me in the middle of the night might have cause to regret it. I'm sure it will give the 'officers' some amusement as they pursue their lonely night patrols.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aporkalypse Now

It's all about the language. A swine-flu outbreak is probably less worrying than an epidemic which, in turn, is less concerning than a pandemic.

Pandemic sounds catastrophic. The reasons for this are obvious. For one it reminds us instantly of panic and also of pandemonium. When you think of pandemonium you may not think of the dictionary explanation (below from but even so, you know it's bad.

Had the media been hamming it up or using similar puns we'd be a lot less worried, but instead we have the hype (written about beautifully here) and the World Health Organisation with their helpfully serious messages.

If you give numbers to the scales of risk then you run the risk of panic. If I hear numbers in this context I always think of the Richter scale or gale forces - the higher the number the greater the devastation.

Ben Goldacre's piece makes the point very clearly - the margins of error are huge. More people are dying of other diseases but we don't have the same level of panic about those - which is probably to do with the means of transmission.

It seems that once every few years we have to have something to panic about, the language makes that very obvious.


–noun 1. wild uproar or unrestrained disorder; tumult or chaos.
2. a place or scene of riotous uproar or utter chaos.
3. (often initial capital letter) the abode of all the demons.
4. hell.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pass the pigs

Amongst the things I've learned from media coverage of the swine flu PANDEMIC, is some interesting language - pandemic is a greatly underused term (possibly a good thing) but, until today, I'd never heard the word prophylactic used out of a sexual context and to mean preventative measure. That it was used by an English MP in a press conference is even more amazing.

I learned that the quasi-surgical face masks (currently becoming very popular) probably don't prevent transmission of infection to you, but might help to stop you transmitting the virus. Thus, wearing one is not as selfish as it might otherwise appear.

I also learned (via the BBC) that we shouldn't be sneezing into our bare hands. This makes a lot of sense, but the alternative option is to rummage around in the handbag I don't carry to find the disposable tissues I won't have with me. Or - as the BBC suggested in all seriousness - sneeze into the crook of your elbow.

I fear that I may take more people out by swinging my arm up to my face than swine flu will eventually finish off in the UK but we shall see.

Incredible video

This is incredible, with or without music it's worthy of much wider circulation. Not that this will help!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jade Goody, the musical

There are times when I struggle to find anything that I think fits the content of what might conspicuously be called 'absurd'. I guess this explains the random and irregular nature of these postings.

This, however, certainly fits the bill. Sometimes it's hard to believe your eyes and it would seem to be a tasteless joke, a punchline in search of a question.

I have no doubt that my inbox will soon be flooded by people suggesting songs that would work in the context, who would really want to write it?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Defeating the object?

The following is taken from today's CMU Daily, recommended reading, sign up at I post it here because I'd originally predicted (here) that if I don't have the time to update my own blog on a regular basis how do we expect celebs to do so......

Shocking revelation this: 50 Cent doesn't do his own Twitter updates. They are written by his internet business manager Chris Romero. Romero told The New York Times he takes quotes from interviews Fiddy has given and uses them for the site, and seems to think that it's all okay. "He doesn't actually use Twitter", he's quoted as saying. "But the energy of it is all him". Well I, for one, am shocked, saddened and disappointed. And I'll be telling my PA to add an update to my Twitter page to that effect forthwith.

It was only a matter of time, I just didn't expect it to be such a short space of time before someone got 'found out'. I suppose we now have to wonder how much it matters. I think, at the moment, it does.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Headline of the year?

I'm always on the lookout for bizarre headlines, even when they're not linked to fabulous stories. This one covers all bases including the obsession with google-earth, google-streetmapview360, googletoiletcamview or whatever.

Schoolyard penis seen from space

Taking an infantile game to a whole new level. A similar story, but inferior headline, lurks here

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

To work in broadcasting at the moment is to be in a perpetual state of apology. I'm even apologetic about being remotely associated with broadcasting. Look, I'm sorry.

Of late all broadcasters have made a 'show' of signing up to a 'commitment to honesty in broadcasting'. Morally we know that there's an element of PR involved in this but as a guiding principle it has significant merit.

This said can we really be claiming that we're honest in our apologies?

Broadcasters and their management may regret the offence they've caused but is it really honest to apologise for something you know wasn't really offensive? Something that only caused offense when it was appropriated by other media and shown out of context to those with very low tolerance thresholds. These people don't normally consume your output and you wouldn't really want them as listeners/viewers anyway. Do we honestly have to apologise to them?

I'm already sorry, OK?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Edited highlights

Sometimes it's hard to keep up with multiple blogs and I've given up archiving the mercury blog here.

However, it may be worth putting the outtakes in this space, so from this blog, I couldn't find a way to shoehorn this bit in - because I thought I'd already covered the territory.

It refers to U2's high-profile of late and the evolution of the music industry. Older acts are back out hawking their wares, but what space does it leave for those trying to break thru? Do we still need the older acts to finance the newer ones? The answer is 'probably'. Here's the out-take:

The fact is that all acts have to work harder these days because they're becoming less relevant to our lives, we have so many more choices of what to do with our leisure time from DVD box sets to Twittering. In some cases the audience has moved on, got older, doesn't listen to as much music (tragic, I know) and certainly doesn't buy as much. U2's biggest album The Joshua Tree achieved over 25 million sales, 'No Line' will be lucky to do a quarter of that. Coldplay's Viva La Vida, last year's biggest-seller, is currently around 7 million worldwide sales. The work that U2 put in now may not alter that but it certainly buys the media's affection for a while.

It's not like a DVD extra but maybe it is. Or not.

Friday, February 27, 2009


For some reason I'm always drawn to the list of 'thanks' in CD booklets. Not sure why as I've only ever been on one (or two) and they're generally the usual parade of producers, record execs, management and family. The most rock 'n' roll message I've come across thus far was taken from Velvet Revolver's Contraband and reads:

"...Dr Cannom for resuscitating me"

There's a better explanation of this brief aside here but it definitely caught my eye. Can I find anything better?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tories hate the public

To be factually and grammatically correct maybe that should read 'Tories hate The Public'.

It's the latest in a probably futile attempt to make a political issue of the biggest white elephant since the millennium dome. Yes, we all know that it cost a lot of money and it isn't finished despite being in the being-built stage for many years and having been open for a year or so.

I still don't know who thought that West Bromwich needed to make an artistic contribution to the Black Country, but they should've looked to Walsall for inspiration. The Public has never fulfilled its remit, but now it's there surely we need to find a way to make it work?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Words I learn from my children


In some ways it was inevitable. The kids would reach an age at which their slang would be inpenetrable to me. Most of it I ignore but when some is directed at me I tend to challenge them on it. Interestingly they didn't really know what a noob was, just that it was an insult used by online communities. So, I win this one by discovering via urban dictionary that noob is a slight abbreviation of newbie, someone who's new to something and doesn't understand the ropes.

Consequently it's a bigger insult online than off, as noobs are castigated for not observing the rules that all the online bores know too well. An elitist insult, yawn. Score one to the old boy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Word of the Day #3

I suspect we all want to satisfy our senses, and wallow in luxury - at least I hope so. Hedonism is the only ambition in town.

I found this word in the Terry-Thomas biog, Bounder, which contains fantastic anecdotes if being somewhat short on emotive detail. Almost 'bang on' you might say.

I knew nothing of Sybaris, but now I do and I'm happy to share it with you.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Time for the FA Cup cliché

Another round, another cliché. Perhaps 'under-doggedly' works well; for those teams who play in the lower divisions but through their persistence manage to harass their way through at least 60 minutes of a match against premiership opposition without being overwhelmed. Of course it all ends in tears, but maybe only after a replay and an open-top bus trip through their town.

I just fear losing to another team in claret & blue.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Today's metro horoscope suggests that I challenge my public perception. Without discussing the merits of bothering to read a horoscope I'm forced to wonder how you even attempt to change other people's perception of you.

The key problem is do you know how you're perceived by others? It's hardly as if you can get them to complete a questionnaire. If we accept that what you see isn't necessarily what you get, how much can you actually know of yourself or others?

Like many of my thoughts and considerations, these may be questions without answers. You can only hope to project the image you'd like to see of yourself, the image you admire in others - that's the ideal, then hope for the best!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


If I smile at everyone I see today, how many of them will think I'm a simpleton. How many will think I'm drunk, or mentally deficient, or a dirty old man? How many simply won't notice?

Are there fixed percentages or does it depend upon the smile, or the individual receiving it? Will the perception improve if the individuals already know me, or does that depend on if they like me or not?

Or should I just not bother, and frown - as usual......

Monday, January 12, 2009

The wrong arm of the law

When not infringing civil liberties at least the plod can be relied upon to prosecute serious criminals

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Word of the Day #2


A friend of mine, who happens to be an esteemed psychologist and life coach, insists we should all start to use this. He wants to ensure its inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary 2009. Use it unsparingly, or spunkaliciously whenever, wherever it fits.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Never trust your online 'friends'

Or at least never ask them for help:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Nostrodamus process

It's a new year, so in a very predictable fashion it's time for everyone to prophesize over what'll happen in the next 12 months. The only reliable prediction is that by the end of December we'll all have forgotten what predictions were actually made.