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Hell in a handcart Media Music

Let’s start a b(r)and

The relentless march of advertising into music isn’t exactly new (although it’s still annoying: witness the increasing use of video screens to blast adverts at rock gigs, something that was previously confined to pop gigs such as Girls Aloud) but this represents a new low: Honeyshot have been put together by Saatchi and Saatchi as a vehicle for brands. As Popjustice puts it:

In spite of parading a level of pop integrity that makes Steve Brookstein look like Stephen Malkmus, we thought this might have been quite interesting – after all, most of the people working in advertising have better and more exciting ideas than most of the people working in pop marketing.

We were wrong. The single, ‘Do It’, is alright and the girls themselves seem perfectly likeable – but the band is shit, their video is shit, their website is shit, their styling is shit. The whole thing is just a shower of shit.

Popjustice goes on to give the whole thing a well deserved kicking.

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Music

Radiodread

This is great: OK Computer given a reggae makeover.

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Music Uncategorised

Gig-a-gig, ahhh

Off to Edinburgh to see Radiohead, with two utterly predictable results: Radiohead were great, and the experience of going to a gig sucked.

I’ve written before about the sheer arsery of live music, but it’s particularly pronounced at bigger gigs: there’s the hassle of getting the tickets in the first place, the joy of ridiculous booking fees, the pain (and cost) of getting there, the nightmare of getting home again (particularly bad last night: Scotrail decided that the combination of a 20,000-capacity stadium gig and the Edinburgh Festival didn’t require any additional train carriages until faced with thousands of pissed Glaswegians at Waverley station), the bad food, the overpriced drinks, the dodgy sound, the sore back you get from standing up for hours… but for me the real problem is the people.

I’m the first to admit that I’m a tad misanthropic, but I’ve talked to others about this and it seems I’m not the only one who thinks there’s an increasingly ned-ish element to gig audiences, especially stadium ones. I don’t subscribe to the true fans vs casual fans argument, but after several hours of being barged into and of being deafened by mindless bellowing from people who spent the entire gig shouting at their mates (either in person or into a mobile) with the occasional break to sing the three words of the chorus of the two songs they actually know, I can’t help but think I’m getting too old for this shit.

When you spend more time entertaining gleeful fantasies about stabbing your fellow punters than listening to the tunes, it’s probably a sign that stadium rock’s losing its appeal.

Pity it’s so expensive. I’ve got tickets to see Muse on Thursday at the same venue, and while I love Muse and reckon they’re probably one of the best live bands on the planet, I’d rather go to the dentist than endure a second stadium show this week. That’s another sixty quid down the drain, then.

Update

I’ve been talked into going to the Muse gig after all. But I’m taking a gun.

Update, again

Muse were great. But blimey, My Chemical Romance are possibly the worst band in the whole world (and made me think of the gag, “I wish my grass was emo. Then it’d cut itself”). I’m saying “possibly” because there’s a very remote chance there’s a worse band out there, although I very much doubt it. Put it this way: the band doing The Final Countdown (linked a few posts back) are much, much better.

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Music Uncategorised

The Final Countdown

Sometimes, cover versions are better than the original.

[Youtube. Via Fark]

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Media Music Uncategorised

MySpace phenomenon, my arse

Many, many years ago – in the mid 90s – I was in a band with a chap called Mark. Mark knew a girl called Tippi – they were from the same bit of Scotland – and she annoyed him immensely: she was one of those “I want to be famous at all costs” types, and at the time she was apparently modelling herself on Natalie Imbruglia.

After numerous style changes, Tippi was signed to a Scots management firm who put her records out on their own label. When she murdered The Blue Nile’s Tinseltown in the Rain (a dancey single in 2002 which, incidentally, attracted some particularly transparent astroturfing on Amazon), Mark was so upset that his large intestine attempted to throttle his brain. I’m quite sure that Tippi’s 2004 direction – a love of Led Zep and AC/DC producing music that sounded like, er, Sheryl Crow and The Bangles – caused Mark to hurl his naked body onto broken glass and rusty nails.

He’d have been really pissed off if he’d read this week’s Sunday Times “Ecosse” section: Tippi’s back, this time as singer with MySpace garage rock “phenomenon” The Hedrons. But I’m not just posting this to annoy Mark (although that’s a big motivator) but also to point out that whenever you see a story about a MySpace phenomenon, it’s usually bollocks.

Rather than coming from nowhere and building an online buzz, Tippi and her pals are signed to No Half Measures management, a very good management company indeed, and the band’s success so far is due to boss Dougie Souness’s contact book and Tippi’s previous life as a Weller-supporting “what style of music is popular this week, boss?” solo artist. MySpace is a red herring: yet again, it’s being used to put a grass-roots veneer on a very polished and very professional PR strategy.

Remember, pop kids: if it says MySpace, it’s from The Man!

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Music Technology

Zune: Microsoft’s doing an Xbox

More details on Zune are starting to appear, and while there’s still no hard information on what the device will actually do (although the message from Microsoft is that it ain’t a portable Xbox; it’s a caring, sharing media playback device) the big picture is starting to emerge. I’m particularly interested in this snippet from Zune Zone:

Microsoft are not looking at payback from the Zune project until 3 to 5 years down the line, said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division, today at Microsoft’s annual analyst meeting.

To me, that sounds like Microsoft’s doing an Xbox. You probably know this already, but just in case: the original Xbox lost Microsoft a whopping $4 billion over four years, but presumably Microsoft thought it was worth it to get 20% of the console market. And now, it seems as if it’s taking the same approach to Zune.

This isn’t a new approach. Amazon.com did it for years, losing as much as 30% on every sale until it had wiped out the competition and developed sufficient muscle to demand big discounts from retailers. While it was building up market share it lost a fortune, but in the long term that paid off. I think the same will ultimately happen with the Xbox – provided it eventually pays, that is; I can’t imagine a third-gen console from Microsoft if the 360 doesn’t get the games division back into the black. So if Microsoft is taking the same approach with the Zune, things could get interesting.

Of course, you can’t polish a turd, and no amount of discounting or long-term courage will persuade punters to buy a product if it sucks. But if we can leave Apple vs Microsoft fanboyism out of the picture for a moment, it’s important to acknowledge what Microsoft does. Yes, it rushes products to market; yes, sometimes it backs the wrong horse. But Microsoft is very good at learning from its mistakes, and it has both the determination and the cash reserves to stand by projects until they work. If the first Zune is good, then hurrah – even if you’re a die-hard Apple fan, competition is good because it’ll make Apple raise their game. And if the first Zune is bad? If Microsoft’s committed to losing money for three to five years, you can be sure that it’ll keep refining the device until it *is* good.

I’ve said before that Apple owes some of its iPod success to the complete inability of its competitors to get their shit together. I think that’s still true in many ways – Sony’s MP3 players are superb of late, but they still have Sony’s horrible software; some PlaysForSure devices are pretty nifty, but the vital spark (for me at least) is missing; Portable Media Centers are a nice idea, but not very attractive in reality, and so on.

Where Apple’s approach to digital music is icy cool and rather aloof – “We made this. We’re geniuses. Of course you’ll love it” – Microsoft’s more puppyish: “is this cute?” “What about now?” “Now?” “How about now?” “Love me love me love me love me!” And each time Microsoft tries, it tries that little bit harder, and it does things that little bit better – so for example, Windows Media player has evolved over its 11 iterations from something that really, really sucked to something that’s really very impressive. Windows Mobile did the same – used to suck, now it’s excellent – and while Microsoft’s forays into the portable media market haven’t been perfect so far, odds are they’ll get it right eventually.

I’m fascinated by this, and I really hope the Zune is as good as Microsoft clearly thinks it is – as I say, even if you hate Microsoft, an intense war between MS and Apple means both firms will raise their game. We’ll find out in the next couple of weeks when the device is finally revealed.

Naturally if it’s a piece of crap I’ll pretend I predicted that all along…

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Music Technology

Microsoft admits: the Zune “iPod killer” exists. Hype time!

[photopress:zune_logo.jpg,full,pp_image]

Microsoft has finally confirmed that its iPod-killer project, Zune, exists. Engadget has a good write-up of what we know, what we think we know and what we don’t know for sure, and the insider blogs have already appeared: ZuneInsider and Madison & Pine.

It’s all very interesting. More hype here and here.

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Music Technology

Woo-hoo for Yahoo!

According to Paidcontent.org, Yahoo! is experimenting with DRM-free digital downloads. There’s only one so far – a pricey Jessica Simpson MP3 – but it’s part of a general anti-DRM attitude at the firm. Paidcontent makes an interesting point:

On the survey Yahoo Music is doing, one of the questions in the survey: “Would you consider paying $1.09 for a single, unrestricted MP3 download that would have absolutely no limitations on its use and could be transferred to any portable audio player or computer?” …this is one way labels can subvert the power Apple holds over the digital music market, and I’m sure some of this is playing out behind the scenes with this move.

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Books Music Uncategorised

Little thoughts

…none of which justifies an entire blog post:

* I traded in a bunch of 360 games at the weekend: PDZ (because it sucks), Ghost Recon (because it’s too difficult) and Far Cry: Predator (because I’ve already played it on Xbox and can’t be bothered with the new mission). Result? Nearly sixty quid, which I put to use by buying two pre-owned games. In the shiny, DRM-protected download future, I won’t be able to do that.

* Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is an hour too long, like every sodding film seems to be these days. At two and a half hours films stop being entertainment and become bladder abuse, with added numb-arse syndrome (and if you’re a smoker, thoughts of murder). As for the film itself, I was mildly entertained but can’t really remember anything about it. But – sad internet type that I am – I had to restrain myself from punching the air when the trailer for Snakes on a Plane appeared.

* There weren’t any anti-online-piracy ads before Pirates… a missed opportunity, not least because it would have been the first time I could have shouted “Yarrrrr” without being out of context.

* There were anti-fake-DVD ads though. At last they seem to have abandoned the “if you buy these, you’re funding Osama Bin Laden” approach and started stating the bleedin’ obvious: fake DVDs suck.

* Red Eye (Cillian Murphy film) is ace. And the DVD’s cheap.

* The new Thom Yorke and Muse albums are really rather good.

* Every time I hear Snow Patrol’s “Run”, I get really angry. I’ll come back to this soon.

* Prey (the game) is all right. If you like that sort of thing, it’s the sort of thing you’ll like.

* British men – me included – really can’t do summer clothes.

* Tim Dorsey has a new book out, The Big Bamboo. I’m halfway through it and it’s as demented as his other stuff.

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Music Technology

Microsoft’s bright iDea

The rumour-mongers are convinced that Microsoft is going to attack the iPod head-on later this year, and MacDailyNews reckons that the firm has an interesting gimmick for potential switchers: if you go the Microsoft route, Microsoft’s software will scan your copy of iTunes for any tracks you’ve bought from Apple and then let you download copies of those tracks in Windows Media format for free.

Three initial thoughts:

* It’s a nice idea, despite the cackles from the Apple faithful. While it’s possible to re-rip your iTMS purchases as DRM-free MP3s (or whatever), it’s a pain in the arse to do it if you’ve more than a handful of tracks.

* That said, Microsoft’s solution means you’re trading one lot of DRMed music for another.

* Wouldn’t it be funny if the iTunes tool got hacked and told Microsoft that *all* your iTunes library – ripped CDs, bittorrent downloads and all – had been purchased from the iTMS?