Music: February 2007 Archives

New Band's Web Presence

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It must be awfully difficult being an up and coming band. Sure, making the records and touring must be hard work, but maintaining your online presence is truly daunting.

Since taking an advantage of an offer on the Virgin Radio site for a free track from the band Ghosts, I've ended up on their mailing list.

No problem - I did choose to go on it.

But at the end of the email they've just sent out plugging the download release of a new set of tracks and remixes, they list their online presences.

There's the official website: www.ghostsmusic.com

Then there's the Myspace page: www.myspace.com/ghostsuk

And the Bebo page: http://ghostsuk.bebo.com

And the Youtube page: www.youtube.com/user/ghostsband

And finally the page that says we haven't left the underground/alternative scene: http://www.ukundercurrent.com/

There's also the pages where you can collect your tracks paid for by SMS: http://ghosts.tunetribe.com and http://ghosts-sun.tunetribe.com

And I expect there's an unofficial fansite with forum and a Yahoo/Google mailing list somewhere too.

Phew. Never mind the tour manager, it's a full-time webmaster that you need these days.

I Hate The Brits

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Wrote this last week, but I forgot to put it live, so better late than never. And there's yet more original research in this!


I hate the Brits.

I hate hate hate hate hate hate them.

I really don't like them at all.

Now this is completely irrational, and I can't exactly explain why. I suppose it's something to do with morbid fascination with awards shows, allied to the "you're all incompetents who have no idea about anything" attitude I take to most things.

I'm right you're wrong.

I think the Brits are the epitome of this in that they're nearly all elected by some jury of record company bigwigs. And is there truly is nobody more worth hating than record company execs (serial killers, despotic dictators and other evil people obviously excepted). They're overseeing the implosion of their own industry, and they're powerless to do anything about it. I wouldn't mind if you didn't have that feeling that they stitch it all up between themselves.

Then there's one award elected by the public. And that's the problem. The public are hopeless too.

Sure, there are some good bands that won awards. But you always feel that it's the big four sharing the bounty.

To be fair, a quick analysis of this year's winners actually reveals the following:

British Male Solo Artist James Morrison - Universal
British Female Solo Artist Amy Winehouse - Island (Universal)
British Group Arctic Monkeys - Domino (Independent)
MasterCard British Album Arctic Monkeys - Domino (Independent)
British Single Take That "Patience" - Polydor (Universal)
British Breakthrough Act Fratellis - Island (Universal)
British Live Act Muse - Warner
International Male Solo Artist Justin Timberlake - SonyBMG
International Female Solo Artist Nelly Furtado - Polydor (Universal)
International Group The Killers - Mercury (Universal)
International Album Killers "Sam's Town" - Mercury (Universal)
International Breakthrough Act Orson - Mercury (Universal)
Outstanding Contribution to Music Oasis - Big Brother (Indie - by SonyBMG internationally)

Giving the following summary:

Universal 8
SonyBMG 1
Warner 1
EMI 0
Independent 3

EMI score 0 on the day that they announce a profit warning. Oh dear. If Lily Allen had won any of her expected awards, at least they'd have had something.

But let's take a step back and consider the nominations too. Spending considerable time with Amazon's Brit awards list I can now reveal the following:

Record Company (Total Nominations, % Nominations)
Universal - 22, 33%
SonyBMG - 14, 21%
EMI - 11, 16%
Independent - 11, 16%
Warner - 9, 13%
Total - 67

Compare this with the 2005 world music market share (not British note, and I guess 2006 figures aren't yet available):

Universal - 32%
SonyBMG - 26%
Warner - 15%
EMI - 10%
Independent - 18%

Goodness - those are close numbers. There might even be a correlation there...

Of course, you could argue that market shares are bound to be broadly in keeping with awards, since Universal obviously has the most artists, they're bound to win the most awards. Strange that this doesn't happen in the film world, where the share of Oscars can be enormously at odds with what actually made money at the box office.

It's all very gratifying to learn that the football on BBC1 that night attracted more viewers than the Brits.

The The

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No, not the band. But the current obsession with bands whose names begin "The ----."

It can't just be me, but there seem to be evermore of them - particularly in the indie/rock genre that my employer plays.

It's certainly true that there have always been bands with names that start "The". Most obviously bands like, The Beatles, The Beach Boys or The Who. Going back, it was perhaps more common to have the name of a star artist and their backing band. So we had Cliff Richard and the Shadows, and Freddy and the Dreamers.

Perhaps nothing really ever changes, but it does strike me that there are more bands beginning with "The" than ever before.

There's nothing like a bit of original research, and far too few blogs have charts or graphs on them. Here is the previously unpublished results of my 'study'. Since I have access to an electronic log of the nearly all the tracks played by Virgin Radio from 2003 onwards, I've examined whether the artist name of every track that the station's played and counted those that began "The". If the track was played more than once, then it's counted more than once. In other words, popularity of tracks counts. I then took that as a proportion of all the tracks played, to give me a "% The" score.

And here's the chart:

the_chart.jpg

A couple of things to say about this chart. First, I'll freely admit that Virgin Radio plays only a subset of all best-selling bands. You won't find too much pop, dance or R'n'B on the station. Secondly, there was obviously a brief surge of popularity back at the end of 2003 and start of 2004 with bands like The Darkness and The Thrills, but not to the same extent as currently. And finally, the number of plays a band gets is obviously down to how the station is programmed. But no Programme Director has ever gone out of their way to play tracks unpopular with the audience. Indeed regular research is undertaken to ensure that the audience does enjoy the music Virgin Radio plays. Oh and obviously Q1 07 is examing the songs played to date.

But I think that there's a clear indication that bands like The Killers, The Feeling and The Fratellis are where "it's at." "The" Klaxons have got it so wrong...

To Be DRM'd or Not To Be DRM'd

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Steve Jobs has posted a long piece on the future of DRM in music. It seems that he can see the writing on the wall, and he ends the piece effectively arguing for the abolition of DRM ("It wasn't out idea guv! The record companies insisted on it.").

There's a certain amount of self-interest here. Apple has become something of a monopoly with its locked system of players and the iTunes music store, and it's in Europe where the rumblings about the possible illegality of this situation are causing some concern, with Norway most recently saying that the current state of affairs is illegal.

So Apple is turning it back on the major record companies, with Jobs helpfully pointing out that 2.5 out of 4 of them are European owned. Apple would drop DRM, he say, in a "heartbeat."

Of course the current state of affairs is unsustainable. More people are realising that their mobile phones are effective music players but that their current collections need to be either re-ripped, bought again, or they have to go through a laborious burn-to-cd-and-then-rip process. Profits from the iTunes music store are never going to be enough to sustain Apple - their future remains hardware. So get ahead of the curve now.

Of course there is some disingenuousness about Jobs position. I have an eMusic subscription that offers me a fixed monthly ration of unprotected mp3s to download. So it would seem to me that Apple could already sell any track that currently appears on eMusic (all from independents - not the majors) DRM free already. Yet as far as I'm aware, the latest Barenaked Ladies album has DRM attached if I buy it from iTunes but not if I buy it from eMusic (By the way, I do have issues with eMusic as well. Their one credit = one track approach doesn't work too well if an artist has filled their album with 20+ songs compared to a classical album that might only be 4 tracks).

So Apple needs to put their money where their mouth is and remove DRM from tracks that don't need to have it. Then they can put a little logo on those that do still have DRM attached that could become the

[Update] Steve Page of the same Barenaked Ladies that I used as a random example above blogs about this very story. As a band who sell USB keys with unencrypted mp3s to fans, he's more than happy for iTunes to ditch DRM on his band's stuff as soon as they like. The physical new album, incidentally, Barenaked Ladies Are Men, only came out this week in the N America, and arrives in UK stores next week. I've had it since last year I think! (Oooh. Just seen that they're playing Hammersmith at the end of March. Must sort out tickets!)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Music category from February 2007.

Music: December 2006 is the previous archive.

Music: March 2007 is the next archive.

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