Saturday, March 31, 2007

why don't you look at me / why don't you see me go

The story in The New Zealand Herald yesterday about the health of the NZ music industry, or otherwise, elicited this response from a reader. I post it without comment or any editing:

El Sid signs on.....

Couple of years ago we were hearing that local music has never been so healthy. At every NZ Music Awards.

I cant wait to hear what they’re gonna say this year!

It was bullshit then and its bullshit now. It's hardly any form of revelation that artists have had to take second jobs. Most of them should never have left them (if they indeed did-Zane Lowe never left his!) in the first place. You seriously want me to believe that the Bleeders expect to make a living from their music in a country this size. They are the type of band that will sell more tee shirts than cd's. Blindspott are hardly a hard working band and their sophomore album with German producers was probably not aimed totally at NZ anyway. They must have had at least one eye on trying to consolidate on their much trumpeted Asian success, and bloody good on them … so why are they are wasting their time and money at SXSW recently …. trying to nurture interest in the US Industry that is already 20% down on last year’s dismal results. Why aren’t they back in Asia?

Bic is an interesting phenomenon. Campbell was handed Bic on a plate and all credit due, they put the hard yard in overseas. Back then Campbell said that Bic on p2p sites was the best guerrilla marketing they had in certain territories. Sony NZ and International poured in the marketing but they can’t do that anymore. It doesn’t work like it did back then. It’s a whole new ballgame! The majors know that better than any of us. They know any business that is in the business of trying to create demand instead of cater to demand is in trouble. All those old marketing paths don’t deliver any more and the serious suspicion is that maybe even the baby boomer public have wised up! Their kids certainly have. The only time kids listen to the radio is in their parents cars, TV viewing drop off can be measured in the deteriorating production standards of TV commercials. To kids Cd’s are like ‘things’. … It goes on. It’s back to basics. Realness. Playing live. Treating your fans as special. Getting educated and getting smarter! Creating new promotional paths and exploiting the Net and working with people who can be all things to the artist. By artists measuring what they become by their art instead of how much they get for it. The irony technology has created ! Campbell’s management company was nearly all things to the artist, but he couldn’t (back then) not work with the labels . But, with his manager’s hat on, I bet he’s bloody not thinking that now!

If I was Bic I’d be thinking that dragging her brand (which is very credible) thru this latest outburst is seriously uncool. Altho she will be cool. She has catalogue and cred here and overseas. One license of ‘Drive’ to a car commercial will set her up for another year. Bic should be pissed off being treated like this. Its like EMI trying to save their sinking ass by pouring all their eggs into Norah Jones' basket. You think the daughter of Ravi Shankar believes she should be at number one globally, let alone generating enough income to bail out a seriously failing corporate – no way jose. The MD's of our local companies know the writing is on the wall and that the present model has got to change or die. Mike Bradshaw is a very smart guy. Campbell is a very smart guy. They know they should have attempted to work with Napster and learn to monetize P2P years ago, but instead their respective bosses tried to blow it out of the water and sue their customers. Dumb and dumber. The problem of scale and distance has ALWAYS been the problem for local artists, and the Net is part of a working solution. If the labels and RIANZ spent the time, money and energy of working with the same technology as they have trying to control it, local artists might be able to have more confidence in these same people. NZOA is in a prima position to be a source for all local artists to be posted on one website that could have international prominence, positioning and profile but MIC still persevere in sending a select number of artists to attend select festivals that are still aligned to a redundant model. Forget it. No one is home.

NZOA is the best thing that ever happened to local music but they need to upgrade their criteria and re vamp their role. They gotta pick up the ball. They long ago got into bed with radio programmers who became A&R consultants to an industry that hardly had any A&R. Now radio and TV aren’t what they were. Local A&R was always the domain of local indies who never got much airplay anyway. And it’s still the same old same old. Problem is all the Indies are more flat ass broke than ever. Some of the artists themselves are as much to blame. At WOMAD you saw high profile artists doing autograph signings for their public in the pouring rain for up to an hour after their gig. I cant remember the last time I saw local icons meeting and mingling with their public, except at the private bar

The next thing that will start hitting the major labels, here and overseas is that major artists wont re sign once their deal is up. And I can bet your lunch, that Campbell, with his manager's hat on (again) is considering this one! Oh Yeh! The majors are in a terrible position. They can't be all things to the artist, and that is what the artist needs. Managers can. Already the majors aren’t developing new acts. They don't have the resources viz time/money. The A&R vacuum being created now is only being balanced by the next Coldplay album. That's all the majors can do. Wait for the new Metallica or whatever. Soon as Coldplay and their ilk say ‘see ya’ (and they will) the majors wont be able to plug the hole in the product gap. Delivery of product has always been the key to their cash flow. It’s here guys! Right under your fingertips. Technology has accelerated to the point that it changes faster than big companies can move to address it, let alone try get the cd out in time!

If youre in a young touring band, get out of here. If you're relying on cd sales, get a job . If you're smart, start treating your fans better. If you're a song writer, treat your catalogue well and you will be sweet! Synchronization, touring and merchandise is where its at ... but most of all. . . u gotta BYOB !

El Sid.....

update: Bob Daktari, a long time industry insider, has more

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hey, daddy-o / I don't wanna go down to the basement /there's somethin' down there

Some years back, at the turn of the nineties, living in a house on the cliff in Auckland’s Parnell, we had no terrestrial television. In those days that meant no TV One, Two, or Three. Why, I don’t really remember, but think it was something to do with no clear signal from any relay station. It had been that way for some years and I very vaguely recall my flatmate, Tom Sampson, crawling around the rooftop, three stories above Awatea Road, trying to find a signal so he wouldn’t have to go elsewhere for his rugby.

Instead, we were early adopters of the Sky Channels. There were three at the start as I recall: sports (which we only watched for the bizarre ESPN exercise shows beamed out of Vegas); movies; and news, which was essentially CNN, the American version which is quite different to the international variety now broadcast in NZ, with a smattering of BBC news tossed in. Really, we only watched the news channel, and, in those Turner owned days it was rather more questioning and less compliant than it is now.

I used to watch Crossfire often, and got to know the various personalities, none of which impressed. On the left there were usually Mark Shields and Michael Kinsey. Kinsey was shrill and unconvincing, whilst Shields held his own rather better, but both were a little wet. On the right Pat Buchanan veered between obvious lunacy and the sort of slow self assured rationality that so scares me on the fringes of the right.

That said, in 2007, he seems to be one of the very few right wing commentators in the US with any grasp of reality.

His partner was something else. Bob Novak was a cold, pointedly nasty creature who had an uncanny ability to completely ignore any argument he didn’t absolutely agree with, regardless of the evidence or logic presented, and bulldoze everybody. And he had a complexion that suggested he had just crawled out of a grave. Which must have given him a psychological advantage over the others.

The other clear advantage Novak so obviously had, was that he was most obviously a Republican insider of some standing. He knew people, they knew him, and he had a grasp on what exactly was happening, or the way it was going to happen in the Capitol GOP.

Move forward 17 years or so, past the Plame scandal, and Novak is still so obviously a Republican insider with ears in the sorts of places most other “insiders” can only dream of. I don't like him anymore but when he writes about Congress or the Senate you should read.

So when Novak writes a piece like this one in the Washington Post, which is astounding on any level, you need to sit up and take notice. Anyway you look at it, it's quite incredible.


The I-word (incompetence) is also used by Republicans in describing the Bush administration generally. Several of them I talked to cited a trifecta of incompetence: the Walter Reed hospital scandal, the FBI's misuse of the USA Patriot Act and the U.S. attorneys firing fiasco. "We always have claimed that we were the party of better management," one House leader told me. "How can we claim that anymore?


With nearly two years remaining in his presidency, George W. Bush is alone. In half a century, I have not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress -- not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment.

And when you couple that with the refusal of the senate to shoot down the timetable attached to the funding bill, thus forcing a veto from Bush, and pushing the public dismay at the war back firmly into the Presidents’ lap, you know the gap between the two branches of power in the Republican Party is both massive and growing. And the desire, leading into 2008 for the Republicans to distance themselves from the disaster that is Bush / Cheney. It's a wholesale desertion of the elected members of the Republican Party away from the Commander in Chief, who still has close to two years left in office. And it won't, as the refusal to back Gonzales shows, get any better.

And as it becomes increasingly obvious that the surge as such seems to be having little effect on the ongoing violence that rush will turn into a stampede I'd imagine

But, then you have this fantasy stuff from John McCain on CNN, with the quite forthright and rapid dismissal from the guy on the ground. CNN would never have broadcast a response like this a year or two back. They would've slipped and slid around and have taken no clear contrary opinion unless it offend somebody important, or buck the script.

Osama must look at Washington DC and smile. It worked…

An update:

Sidney Blumenthal plays an intriguing game of follow the emails at Salon

The rise and fall of the Bush presidency has had four phases: the befuddled period of steady political decline during the president's first nine months; the high tide of hubris from Sept. 11, 2001, through the 2004 election; the self-destructive overreaching to consolidate a one-party state from 2005 to 2006, culminating in the repudiation of the Republican Congress; and, now, the terminal stage, the great unraveling, as the Democratic Congress works to uncover the abuses of the previous six years.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

but I f***king sure as hell tried....

I was accused in a comment to a previous post of living in the eighties. It’s not true, I swear…this last week I’ve been living in the seventies, and with some glee too, I admit.

What I’ve been doing over the last few months, on and off, is trying to document a little bit more of the punk explosion that hit Auckland, New Zealand, along, of course, with much of the rest of the world, back in the last part of that decade.

I’ve been wanting to do, with mixed success, to get a piece wrote for Rip It Up magazine’s quarterly offshoot, EXTRA, in mid 1980, onto the internet. The item in question was a family tree of the Auckland punk movement, with the links that joined all the bands, as convoluted as they were, indicated. It was, clearly, inspired by Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees, which I had across several books and had spent god knows how many hours studying, enthralled by the nerdy detail.

To be honest, I’m also trying to circumvent the regular requests I’ve had in recent years for a photocopy of my (lesser) version of Mr Frame’s masterwerk, which stretches across two broadsheet pages, and is full of graphics and as much trivia as I could fit.

That is not an easy task on an A4 copier, and the scan I spent two hours trying to do, was a complete disaster. So I decided to put it online, or at least a replica of it.

The story of the actual piece is on the page, but the key to it was clearly to try and include a graphic to cover the information in a web accessible way. I decided, in my web amateur way, to put the band’s bios (which I would not change from the 1980 original, complete with unfinished endings…the Marching Girls, as Brendan rightly pointed out to me, is particularly incomplete when you look at Brendan’s post MG’s career….but if you change one you need to them all, and I’ve tried to cover what I know in this page) in pop up layers, which did so when you did a mouse-over of the band’s name.

And so I tried and tried. I actually got it to work for one day, and then I applied the Dreamweaver template to the page, and all sorts of odd things happened, including the layer with the bio opening new tabs; then the layer opening at the top of the editable region and refusing to close. Removing the template didn’t bring back the working layer visibility and positioning.

And since it seemed I might have to learn another program (Flash) to make, what Dreamweaver tells me is a simple procedure, work….I gave up.

And so, here is the Zwines Family Tree (and a brief history of the club, and the scene around it), and, in a new page, here are the original bios from a bunch of mostly long forgotten New Zealand rock’n’roll bands…some brilliant, some truly awful, most just ok, but all crucial in their own way, to the direction popular music in NZ would go in the next few years.

Oh…and as an extra…here is a fairly rare live recording (from the Globe?), rough as guts but how it really used to sound:

The TerrorwaysNever Been To Borstal


My friend Sara Leigh Lewis, in London, has this wonderful page of photographs taken around Auckland in 1979 /80. There are people there I'll sadly never see again, and, as she said, it made me rather misty eyed. Oh the youth of it all......