There's been a flurry of excitement about a couple of bands recently. You probably saw some of the coverage, it seemed to be everywhere. It dominated news channels and papers, even radio stations got pretty animated.
Unfortunately these bands were The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Both are celebrating 50th anniversaries - one with a 'new' compilation and tour, the other just basking in the continual reflected glow of admiration that is given for their status of 'national treasures'.
Andy Warhol once suggested that in the future everyone would have their fifteen minutes of fame; very few will get fifty years of it though. In fact is there anyone currently making music that will survive and be venerated fifty years from now?
Furthermore can you think of anyone - or any single piece of work - created in the last twenty years that will survive the ravages of time and still be praised five decades after its creation? There may be a few but will the bands or artists who created them still be able to fill arenas and stadia worldwide in 2032 and beyond?
It could be argued that The Beatles and The Stones were pioneers at the vanguard of teen dominance with the good fortune to be at their peak when the rock n' roll generation came of age - a generation that possibly still rules over popular culture.
There may be other issues at hand of course, such as the current difficulties in breaking and sustaining an act globally. As I've often reflected it's easier to find a route to market these days and consequently you're competing against so many others. When you look at acts having success on both sides of the Atlantic, who do you see - Adele, Rihanna, Mumford & Sons, Muse, One Direction? Which - if any - of them do you predict could still be making an impact in forty years time?
The work ethic and release schedule of The Beatles (previously mentioned here and here) is a defining factor of their success and longevity - something that they were only able to achieve with a supportive record company and less strenuous promotional responsibilities to acts of today. Indeed it is important to note that The Beatles barely toured once they were successful - an option not available to any acts in 2012 now that live revenue is more important than royalties.
You might argue that The Beatles paid their 'dues', that no-one takes such a risk in 2012 (going to Hamburg for months on end, playing 98 consecutive nights) that everyone wants it now and on their terms. This could be true but I'd imagine it frustrates many young musicians that they don't only have to compete with other new acts; they're also competing against 50 years of pop history. It's a hard life.
Whenever I'm asked for advice by bands or artists these days I say one thing 'try and enjoy it'. There seems to be little point in having a creative bent and not pursuing it for the purposes of your own entertainment, even if it is for no-one else's.
The minute you start to think of your music as a career, something that you might profit from, is probably the moment that the rot sets in. As an artist you should not be bothered by such things.
I hadn't looked at Amanda Palmer's breakdown of expenditure
when composing the original blog (below) on kickstarter/pledge and the other funding sites.
It's an interesting piece, if only because it gives you some insight into an artist's outgoings and cross-references Steve Albini's earlier blog about signing to a record label (also well worth reading).
Of course you can do things in many different ways, but you should always have a budget and remember that recording and playing live are expensive hobbies. It all depends how much you want to do it, and why. More of that in the next blog.
It's hard to make a living in the music industry, you're lucky if you can break even. As we bring forth a second or third generation who have no concept of paying for recorded music (what they don't steal they stream) it gets harder to get a break.
I wrote about this way-back in July 2009, should you care to read it you can do so here although there have inevitably been many changes in the subject since then.
One of the more recent additions to the artist's arsenal is the concept of pledging. Initially seen in the charity market, particularly in tv telethons, its application to music is of great interest as it allows an act to establish their worth before taking a risk.
Everyone knows that the England manager's job is a poisoned chalice. It's an irresistible prospect for some but the chances of failure and ridicule far outweigh the limited likelihood of success. To put it bluntly England expects, too much.
Taking a brief scan of the previous occupants of the role will tell you all you need to know. Were they considered successful, have they gone onto greater things, did their reputation survive intact or were they lampooned viciously by the media and vilified by the public?
John Farnham once sang: 'You're the voice try and understand it'. Taking Farnham as my gospel I have tried to make sense of the TV programme of the same name. It is the latest BBC attempt to raise the bar in talent show chic following on from their previously ultra-successful efforts like Fame Academy.
The gimmick with The Voice was established early on - it's all about the voice (geddit?) and to prove it the judges, or coaches in this instance, heard the initial auditions 'blind'. Naturally you can't pay will.i.am (hereafter known as Will or Willy depending on how I feel) multi-millions and stick a blindfold on him, so they had ultra-swanky revolving chairs. When the coaches heard a singer they liked they hit a button and turned to face them.
My life is continually filled with wonder at the stupidity of my fellow man. The unthinking and casual nature of persistently dumb behaviour is quite simply astounding. This is not to portray myself as some kind of genius, the opposite would clearly be true, but the absence of what I would consider to be 'common' sense is often staggering.
Let's ignore the behaviour of Haye and Chisora as we should, simply because they're meat-heads whose daily life consists of muscling up and punching things. Even they should've known better than to get dragged down to the level of the bar-room/playground brawl but the majority of right-thinking people have never regarded modern boxing as the sport of 'gentlemen'. I'd be grateful though if you didn't point out that I'd called them meat-heads since I've met David Haye and I wouldn't like to fight him even if he is 'out of shape'.
I saw a TV show last night called 'My Social Network Stalker' which related the story of Ruth Jeffrey, a girl then in her late teens who'd endured three and a half years of online stalking and other harassment. So far, so harrowing you might say, except that the identity of the stalker should've been painfully obvious from very early on.
Blubber and blubbering - The Biggest Loser, ITV1 Tuesday 9pm
You'd think it'd be easy to escape the morbidly obese, after all they'd hardly likely to catch you even at a slow jogging pace. Should you be watching any prime-time TV however you'll find they're omnipresent; if it's not morbidly obese crime (the 74 stone babysitter, C4) then it's the morbidly obese trying to be less obese or perhaps less morbid.
This week saw the return of The Biggest Loser (ITV1), doubtlessly scheduled to coincide with most of us reaching our guiltiest and flabbiest ebb, reminding us of our resolutions and a nationwide desire to pull back from the seasonal excess. In some respects it was hard to know if they're telling us to stop before we get as bloated as these people or reassuring us that maybe we're not so bad after all.
There's no doubt that the participants in TBL should've moved from the sweet trolley to the salad bar a very long time ago. All ten have bodies that would shame the Michelin man and personalities that greatly belie the theory about fat people being jolly; so many tears were shed in the first programme that the contestants could've swam their way to fitness.
The foolish queue
to be unfulfilled
at a price
they can ill afford
send sparks skywards
regardless of the time
While Jools celebrates
like it's live
rather than over-rehearsed
and recorded earlier
The old man shuffles
out the back door
coal in hand
to come back in the front
We who think we know better
sit in silent remembrance
with misplaced hope
that this year might be different
Frankie Cocozza, remember him? Me neither. I understand that he was the 'rock 'n' roll' one on this year's X Factor, the one that was supposed to inject some rock energy into the increasingly dull proceedings. Apparently he got sacked for doing something a bit too rock n' roll, perhaps a case of prematurely believing his own hype or just life imitating television.
Likelihood is that he'd have survived if he'd been any good in the first place but they needed the revelations and front-page stories more than they needed his dubious talent. He was one of this year's 'colour-characters', the contestants they keep in the mix to make it a little bit interesting, to stimulate the 'water-cooler' moments, to keep us chatting about the unfairness of it all - as if anyone believed it is a fair and just contest.