Saturday, February 21, 2009

A ship was turning broadside to the shore / Splish splash I was raking in the cash

Brian Eno, as always, gets it in the March Mojo, when asked if musical innovation is possible now:

It’s as though the palette that musicians have available now is every style that has existed over the past 50 years or so. I mean, I even see it with my daughters. The content of their Ipods is completely, insanely, eclectic. They’ve got everything from doo-wop to hip hop and everything in-between. Which, when you think about it, it’d be as if I would have listened to music frm 1906 when I first started listening to music. It’s ridiculous! Even stuff from ten years earlier seemed hopelessly out of date then.


This is still completely original behaviour but it doesn’t look original because we’re re-combining blocks that we think we recognise. But once they are recombined you hear them differently.

You can almost forgive the guy Coldplay and U2…

Now playing: Diplo

Everybody's got to live their life / And god knows I've got to live mine

You know what really pisses me off? No? OK, I'll tell you since you're here. It's people who don't know how to bloody well say thank you!

In particular people who email, Facebook message, or IM me to ask me a question. I get probably a dozen requests for information of one sort or another every week: do you know where XXX is these days; when are you going to re-release XXX; where can I buy XXX; what's the name of the third track on side two of XXX, and so on.

I'm very happy to oblige and I always try to offer quick and friendly information.

Most folks fire back a quick thank you and all is fine. But about 20% don't bother, and, yes, it pisses me off more and more. Indeed, there was one guy a week or two back who asked me a question. I replied. He came back with another, then another and I answered them all. Then nothing.

It's not too much to ask surely, a two word response.

Just sayin....

Oh my, oh my / Have you seen the weather

from Scoop.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What a cruel thing to pretend / What a cunning way to condescend

This is the 24hr Apple shop in 5th Ave:

Apple Store 5th Ave

This is the local Bali Apple store's delivery vehicle. I'm not sure whether to laugh or sob uncontrollably (note the rust around the was worse around the front):

pcmac van

That was me......

And yet, after 8 years of pulling my hair out in large clumps each time George W. Bush stood at a press conference with another world leader, I feel a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders by the mere fact that Obama was not embarrassing. Policy positions aside: what a relief to not feel utterly humiliated as a citizen after watching our Commander in Chief take the foreign stage.

I know others felt the same way.

[From Jeffrey Feldman: On The Joy Of Not Cringing At Our President]

Indeed..and I'm not even one of you....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Inflatable darling....


Won't you cleanse my soul / Put my feet on the ground

Mark Harris has a fascinating post which goes through some of the rather ugly and unseemly machinations which led to the introduction of the ethically questionable (to say the least) Section 92 (A) amendment to the NZ Copyright Act into the lawbooks of my homeland.

I’m gonna sidestep a few of the issues, especially the gnarly legal and ethical ones as they seem to have been both discussed and re-discussed in some detail, and are simply disturbing.

Instead I’m wanting to make a quick comment about the less talked about ramifications of this act.

Which is the stupidity angle.

Or, the angle perhaps better called the Haven’t-they-fucking-learned-anything-endgame.

Because, from a copyright holder’s POV that’s the one that’s smacking me most in the face right now.

When I was a lad (I always love writing that line) record companies were mostly uber cool. There was a kind of romance about the music industry. You either wanted to be an All Black (not me), an aviator (for a brief moment), a pop star (no talent) or work for a record company (oh yes…).

Switched on people, hanging out with pop stars (good for kids like me who were tone deaf, or had been dismissively accused by our guitar teacher of trying to strangle the Yamaha six string, just before he gave up), making records and living a showbiz life…I wanted to be one of those.

And with that in mind, still as a lad, I went to see the legendary Phil Warren in his brightly coloured office above Cook Street Market in Auckland, complete with photos of pop stars on the walls above the purple vinyl sofas, and said “I wanna be in the music business”. His advice was simply to follow my instincts and if it was to be, it would be. It was.

Over the years I was fairly heavily involved in making records, signing and managing acts and running labels, the industry remained reliably cool. I used to get, until a few years back, other lads (and lasses) coming to me and asking if they too could get into the industry. I simply passed Phil’s advice on. One of those asking runs a major label now so Phil’s advice seems to have had some legs.

People wrote fantastic books on record labels, like the one on the Warners group, or the great Jac Holzman’s book on his legendary Elektra. Labels were anthologised, trainspotted, and the aura of romance, despite its overwhelmingly rose tinted façade, that wrapped around the legends of labels like Motown or Atlantic or Island remained largely intact.

That is, until about 10 years ago, when it all began to change. There were a few things that caused the swell of change in the way labels were and are perceived. At its most basic level the structure of record labels and the personalities that drove them changed. The old guard, the Berry Gordys, Chris Blackwells, and Ahmet Erteguns were replaced by accountants, Wall Street, and faceless bureaucrats who not only didn’t really understand the business they ran, and the passions that drove it, but saw an overwhelming need to cut a profit in the current financial year and were thoroughly overwhelmed and confused by the trees in front of the forest.

But, that in itself wasn’t enough to completely kill the aura. After all record labels still released groovy records by groovy artists.adjust.jpeg

Then came Napster and it’s aftermath. It was the beginning of an extended period where the largely faceless automatons who now controlled the shrinking number of labels decided to not only bite, but quite viciously attack the hand that feeds. The assault on the downloaders, the disc copiers and the grossly excessive verbiage that accompanied it all has been documented repeatedly, and I don’t need to go into it again but it, as it always was going to, it ended up turning the way the consuming public saw the labels, who were now fairly universally regarded as irredeemably greedy, exploitative and evil.

Thus the RIAA achieved the exact opposite result it intended to and provided a justification, however real, in the minds of those who wanted to take the copyrighted material owned by their members without payment.

And it also missed the point that whatever the downside of digital age vis-à-vis P2P and such, there were as many upsides for copyright owners in terms of massively increased opportunities for sync, catalogue exploitation, marketing and so much more.

Spin forward to 2008 and the penny has finally dropped, at least a little, in the USA. Whilst the ludicrous claims as to the losses incurred continue, and the likes of John Kennedy continue to stridently argue that it’s all about protecting the artist (really? Gosh!) the RIAA announced a moratorium on the silly granny suits and attacks. Maybe they’ve just worked out that there is some sort of future out there, if only they were willing to work through these things.

So flip across to New Zealand and what do we have…. a PR disaster carefully, and rather obliviously put together by a variety of industry lobby groups, including APRA, who having seen their turnover rise in the digital age, should know much better. And the balance of income from copyright exploitation will continue to shift in the direction of publishing and non-sales related returns.

Hell, everyone can work that one out, surely.

I can almost understand the remnants of the majors in NZ fighting tooth and nail to preserve what they have but the Canute-ism of it all is rather unavoidable and it is, in every way possible, as big a public relations disaster for the labels (at least on a NZ level) as the law suits against kids were in the USA, and thus is equally as self defeating as those ludicrous legal missteps.

They hated you before? They hate you much more now. How bloody stupid.

Anyway, as an aside, Mark has the T-shirt pictured here available. The phrase on it was lifted from a post of mine on Public Address and Mark, after asking permission, initiated the bits for sale at the link. I’m not sure if the phrase carried copyright ;)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Step on the gas / And wipe those tears away

Just a moment of irony. The gilded Camel

Having driven from Dubai to Abu Dhabi on Sunday (including being passed by a car, which we were reliably told, was a silver Corvette..solid silver that is), after a meeting we turned around to drive the 120 or so Kms back to the massive construction site that is Dubai.

Abu Dhabi sits on one of the world's bigger puddles of black gold, and we needed to fill up, quite urgently.

Easy? Well, no. The road from AD to D, almost until you reach the Dubai border, has absolutely no gas stations, and thus, stressing, with Greg, who was driving us, employing a shift into neutral on the slight downwards slopes that you encounter on the 10 lane freeway, to save that last few millilitres of gas, we eventually crawled into a packed ENROC station some 35km from Abu Dhabi's business centre.

It just seemed ironic...I guess you had to be there.

We were the children, now we've overgrown

Apple 5th Ave

Just as an aside, and not really relevant to anything, but one thing that caught my eye in 2 ½ weeks in New York was the almost complete absence of the the much touted iPhone.

Sure I know the figures, nationwide, for iPhone penetration, but the device was notably absent in the US’s fulcrum, where the Blackberry is not just dominant, but almost universal.

I felt almost inadequate with my Sony Ericsson K850.

Even down the stairs at the 24 hour Apple store on 5th Ave (where I spent much of the time that I didn’t spend at the 14th Street store or the SoHo store) RIM’s devices were utterly pervasive.

City residents told us of a gap…you buy your kid a jesus phone which, when they reach an age of any responsibility, you trade up from, to something a tad more adult.

And yes, I'm a bit of a slapper, but I do want a storm.....

Flame away acolytes….

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Civil liberty / I can't see to pay a fee

I wandered quite happily around the Intrepid Air Museum, killing an hour or two and indulging my closet fixation for old military aircraft. It was, as it always has been, quite a buzz to be surrounded by these design wonders, especially when the folks who pick the aircraft clearly seem to go for the quirky and unusual over the obvious.

I even managed to smile and mentally cast aside the three older Texan women who were saying to each other, quite loudly, that this would all come to an end soon, as Obama was gonna shut'em down and pal around with terrorists or words of that ilk.

But I wondered why the funny looks, from more than a few, especially those guys with the be-badged veterans hats that you alway see at these sorts of establishments. The guys who put USMC (Ret) on their title and keep on saluting each other, rather sadly, for decades after they were honourably discharged.

Then I went into the washroom and saw my hat in the mirror. Communist Chinese headwear, complete with a big embroidered red star, is probably fairly rare in an American cold war and military museum.

Still, I finally made it into a Concorde