Friday, September 27, 2013

Welcome to the working week

When you write regularly it’s apparent that a fair amount of repetition will creep into your work. This is particularly true if the writing is focussed on specific subjects and those articles/blogs contain your opinions. Even given the flexibility of intellect and the general open-mindedness I try to apply, it is rare that an entrenched opinion will fundamentally alter. Sometimes I avoid repetition by trying to ignore the urge to write and simply bang my head against a brick wall instead.

I’ve long held the opinion that modern musicians do not work as hard as their predecessors. In fairness it’s probably a different kind of work with more worldwide travelling involved. The fact is that if you read any book about successful bands in the sixties you’ll find that they were constantly on a treadmill of recording and playing – and that playing often included multiple gigs on each night.
Things change, of course, and in particular the process of recording, releasing, promotion and touring has tended to fit fairly standardised patterns over the past thirty years or so. I am always disheartened though when I hear of a successful band ‘taking a break’ , it seems to me that this is counter-productive and risks the success that they have worked hard to achieve in the first instance. You wonder was it not what they were expecting or hoping for, is it ever?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In the future no-one's getting paid

With the news that zero-hours contracts are becoming the norm for a large number of ‘workers’, it might seem that the doctrine of freeconomics is coming to us all.

How do you ensure your output has value? How do you make your experience count in coin? What value do your contacts and knowledge have?

We’re all only worth what someone else is prepared to pay for us or what we can do. There once was a ‘going rate’ for pretty much everything but the floor has dropped out of most markets.

If we don’t protect or value creativity there will be no purpose in its existence. Why would you bother to be creative if it doesn’t pay the bills? When will you get the time if you’re too busy working – or will it come when you’re on stand-by to work?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reasons to be cheerful?

I find reason to be optimistic about the music industry today. In truth it is only a reflection of my own tastes, a reflection that I should know better than to extrapolate into accepted belief. I am more optimistic because – for the first time in a long time – there are quite a lot of albums that I’m interested in hearing.

It is valid argument that the album is a dead format, I’ve even suggested the same myself , but there are occasions when you like an artist’s work enough to want to hear a bigger selection of it. You want more new songs. In that respect the album still exists as a 'vehicle' – if the industry is fixated with it then the consumer has little other choice.

Some of the stuff I want to hear, or have been listening to this week, is not that new – Savages, The National – and some is not yet out – Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, Elvis Costello & The Roots, Gambles, Mark Lanegan. Others are quite fresh releases – Janelle Monae, King Krule, Willis Earl Beal.

In some of the above cases – notably Elvis, Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire – I’m contradicting an argument I frequently use about ‘old artists’. In this argument I point out (often just to myself) that you/I probably own their best recorded material, do I really need to hear or own any more?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A question of trust

I always liked Longpigs , the Sheffield rockers of the late 90s. I played them frequently on my Radio WM show; it clearly had a huge impact on their careers as they split after two albums.

They seem to be an instance where the individuals have succeeded in being greater than the sum of their parts. Guitarist Richard Hawley is a success in his own right of course, while frontman Crispin Hunt wheels out hits for others and is an impressive industry spokesman.
In his latter role he popped up at the BPI agm and echoed some of the points I was hamfistedly making about ‘trust’ within the industry, or the lack of it. His statements and suggestions are well worth reading in the Music Ally report of the meeting.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Europeans are coming (maybe)

We may have been part of ‘the union’ for over forty years but you could probably still easily recall most of the European acts to have an influence (or hit) in this country. It may be the one area of business where we continue to export far more than we import.

Ignoring the random breakthrough hits, one-off novelties and the like it appears that European labels are less able to exert their pressure on the UK. By which I mean that (ignoring cultural issues) if an act is big in the States you can expect the management and label to try and replicate that success across other territories. Is the same true for non-UK or non-Irish European artists?

It’s probably just as well, since we already seem to have more music than we can possibly hope to listen to. The Euro hit-factories contribute to the pop charts but at a more cerebral level is there any entente cordiale?