Archive for March, 2008

March 28, 2008

Brand on the Run….

The question of whether bands like to be associated with advertisers has yet again surfaced this week in what is a very intriguing dichotomy.  At the beginning of the week The Smashing Pumpkins announced their decision to sue Virgin Records for breach of contract.,,2268037,00.html    This is purely on the grounds of artist integrity and the fact that the band didn’t want their image splashed all over an international promotional campaign with Pepsi, (probably not the coolest brand) although that never stopped Madonna or Michael Jackson. 

 In diametric contrast Groove Armada announced a deal later on this week pledging their allegiance with Bacardi  This deal would have turned Billy Corgan in his coffin!!  Effectively Groove Armada have signed over their publicity rights to Bacardi,  any new music or gigs will be performed through the brand name.  This will bring plenty of extra wealth to the tables of Findlay and Cato.  And who would deny them of that?

Of course this is not the first time artists have colluded with the other side. Robbie Williams, Moby, Britney Spears, U2, Jet, Daft Punk, Eminem, to name but a few.  Even the iconic greats of Dylan and Macca have advertised  – Apple of all things!  Even Mr integrity himself, Jack White – wrote a song for Coca Cola!  Some have done it for extra recognition,  most have done it for extra publicity and all have done it for the filthy lucre.  Or maybe they just feel strongly about the product and want to promote it? Bono’s justification for advertising the ipod!

Could this be the future of music?  With bands becoming increasingly more autonomous and the wealth distribution becoming more advantageous surely it is only natural for musicians to want to sell their creative talents in the name of commerce.  So why have The Smashing Pumpkins spurned the opportunity?

Well there is only so much money a person needs, surely!  Once you have become wealthy through the money of your fans, why is there a desire to accumulate more money through sponsors?  People invest emotion and time into their favourite bands – living vicariously through their artists visceral energy and candid intellect.  When musicians start to commodify their talent they begin to lose their supreme right to inspire and entertain the people.  After all we are surrounded in a world of crass commercialisation, is it not right to expect our idols to live beyond the superficial world of sponsors. 

March 21, 2008

Raconteurs review the rulebook

 The Raconteurs have dispensed with all traditional forms of promotion and thrown the publicity rule book out the window.  What now seems to be de rigueur for any trend setting rock band is to dispense of any pre-hype by releasing their album before any journalists can get their hands on it.  I remember a certain Radiohead album last year having a sudden release and sounding all the more vital for it.

Extract taken from, “The group added that they wanted the sudden release so that everyone, fans and media, got the record at the same time “so that no one has an upper hand on anyone else regarding it’s availability, reception or perception”.

Is this just great marketing – unique selling point/the anti marketing stance, or is this a gesture of independence and honesty.  With Jack White at the controls you suspect the latter.  Aways trying to stay one step ahead of the game and well known for adhering to the fundamentals of music, the songs are the most important element, everything else can follow. 

Maybe this is just transferring the album release format into a more spontaneous, organic process – akin to seeing live music.  This could be a glimpse of the future, bands releasing music on a whim, no fanfare, with all the analysis and retrospection succeeding the event.   It is after all quite refreshing, gone are the months of hype and promotion that can squeeze the life out of any album.   Though in diametric fashion the band also signify the importance of the album format.  As stated on their website:”The band also prefer that fans buy the album as a whole instead of breaking up the tracks.”This is in tune with many other artists who believe in the creative wealth of the album, also Radiohead.  Downloading singles may be culturally trendy but it’s clear that many artists feel artistically devalued with such actions.  Although not all bands – As reported on 6 music: “The Raconteurs feel very strongly that music has worth and should be treated as such. Thank you to all those who respect music in this fashion.”It will be interesting to see, on the release date of March 25, if the music will have the final word.


March 12, 2008

Wearing the right label

After reading much of the press over the last few months it would be easy to deduce that the music labels are in turmoil and the Internet revolution is the only way forward for the creativity, distribution and cache of any band with rock star pretensions.  While there is an element of truth in all of the gossip there is still a credible and technical advantage in signing to certain, independently minded labels.   Even though everyone is heralding the digital revolution bands could still be alot better off with the right label.   Read Aussie – Electro popsters, Cut Copy’s views @

Surveying the current scene of hipsters and wannabe rock stars it seems that many of the hotly tipped acts are signed to one of the in-vogue independents.  Even bands with the phenomenal clout of Radiohead or Arctic Monkeys have deals with a label.  Selling your wears on the Internet is all well and good for initial hype, though for the practicalities of promotion, business acumen, production assistance, contacts and resources it is still essential for even marginally ambitious muso’s to seek out the right deal.

Independent labels can encourage innovation and fund experimentalism.  Something the majors are reluctant to do unless it guarantee’s revenue.   Domino – founded in 1993 – have enjoyed huge success with the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand and consequently are able to fund the likes of more left field bands such as, Animal Collective, Clinic and Four Tet –  New bands such as These New Puritansare also benefiting from the qualified exposure of Domino.

XL are another label that seem to have the Midas touch,  Now of course home to Radiohead and The White Stripes, they also seemed to have unearthed and invested in possibly two of the brightest acts of 2008, Adele and Vampire Weekend   What started as a dance label in 1989 has quickly evolved into one of the most respected and cutting edge independents in the UK.  The fact that two of the most eminent and individual players in the business, Thom Yorke and Jack White, trust them wholeheartedly says alot about the company

American label DFA has much in common with its Australian counterpart Modular  Both have created a big enough stir to inspire a global buzz surrounding their bands  By focusing on a scene and becoming the vanguard they have simultaneously pioneered and encapsulated their respective markets of post-punk & Electro.  Synonymous with their own brand of music they have both become a byword for new-wave chic.  This of course does pose a few problems if they want to break the mould, though retro-metalists Wolfmother seemed to have profited quite nicely in Modular’s Stables.  DFA is of course the brainchild behind James Murphy, who’s band LCD Soundsystem have led the dance renaissance.  With hotly tipped Hercules and Love Affair  following swiftly behind it seems their tightly knighted trend has got plenty of ideas left in the bank.  

March 6, 2008

Apollo Epic


There are very few certainty’s in life.  Music’s innate power to lift us out of our daily malaise is an exception.  Live music is possibly the greatest form of human expressionism, transporting us to a place of supreme inspiration.   Though sometimes the emotional prop we depend on from our heroic live performers is not as bankable as we would like.  We can all recall a time when a so-called legend has failed to spark beyond the perfunctory routine.   As was the danger of hyping Neil Young’s first UK tour for 5 years,  last time he played it was a largely conceptual set comprising the whole of the Greendale album and very little else.   Last night however was one of those musical moments that makes you believe in infinite possibilities, the whole performance made everyone in the Apollo realise why they’ve devoted their whole life around the emotional dependence of music.                  

The stage rather resembled Young’s life, ramshackle, creative and eclectic.  Always labeled as a contrary old buzzard, last night he showed his full repertoire of personalities.  Entering from behind a painting, in a crumpled white suit, he sat on a stall and from the opening chords of ‘Hank to Hendrix’ everyone sensed a night of greatness.  Eternally blessed with the wisdom of a man way beyond his years, he now bears the image of that wise old sage.    His voice has aged well, slightly worn but matured, every word suspended in the air, the crowd hanging off every syllable.  His unmistakable falsetto befits such world weary melodies.  After much focused silence his mood relaxed and he began to banter with the crowd, adding abstract humour to a limitless pool of talent – he joked about talking to Jesus the last time he played in Hammersmith.  Much of the acoustic set was handpicked from across his career,  highlights included the circular strumming of ‘Ambulance blues’ and the befiting ‘Old Man’, which both encapsulated his skill for poise and grace.  

If much of the first set was all about methodical restraint then the second half showed his split personality.  Oppositely dressed in a black suit with paint splashed all over, he completely inhibited the grunge master of Crazy Horse notoriety.  With a set that leaned heavily on the three albums of Everybody Knows this is nowhere, Rust never sleeps and chrome dreams 2 Young and his band constructed a barrage of sound that thrilled an increasingly vociferous crowd.  At times leaning back and scything his way around the stage Young resembled a man wrestling with an old piece of machinery, shaking and squeezing every possible sound out of its body.  New songs ‘Spirit road’ and ‘No hidden path’ were particularly brutal, the latter augmented into a 15 minute epic with Young, head-back, staring transfixed into an enormous searchlight.  Particular highlights were the beautiful waltz of ‘Oh Lonesome me’ and the rousing grunge anthem ‘Hey, Hey, My My’.  A peculiar sight amongst all the frenzy – which somehow fitted in with the eccentric nature of the performance – was the conceptual gesture of a different painting being placed on an easel at the side of the stage to represent each new song, though it did add lightness of mood to an increasingly menacing thunder.

And so the encore.  Young and his old stalwarts reappeared and unleashed a uncompromising ‘Cinnamon girl’ that mutated into a cacophony of feedback and chord surfing.  After a small discussion the band continued and rewarded the now delirious crowd with old favourite ‘Like a Hurricane’, which incited the crowd into a mass singalong.  After nearly three hours Neil Young looked like a man who wanted to play all night,  though during the customary group huddle he resembled the look of a man slightly possessed, spent of emotion and energy, but like everyone else transported beyond the banality of the concrete world to a higher consciousness.