How Kim Kardashian’s tits prove Obama’s anti-feminist agenda

Kim Kardashian 2011 Glenn Francis @ PacificProDigital.com

Well, that got your attention. That’s the trouble, see, it’s the only thing that does. It’s funny, when I think of the people who were most talked about at school, one was a girl who was extremely popular because she just agreed with what everybody else said, and the other was a boy who was so naughty that he was always in trouble. That’s how you get people’s attention – be bland or be shocking. If you don’t, you’re just invisible.

That’s the other thing – most people don’t set out to get attention all the time, and there’s something rather wrong with you if you do. For most of us, we just do what we do because we love it, and if other people enjoy it too, it’s great. That’s all well and good, but when it feels like nobody’s listening at all, you do wonder why you bother. Why not be the bland one or the shocking one for a little while and bask in the rays of that glorious attention?  Continue reading

How to blog about … SXSW

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The wrap party was yesterday, so most of what will be written about the world’s hippest festival has already been tweeted live, but there’s still a day or so to get your thoughts down.

The Tone

If you were there, ladle on the smug like a Yummy Mummy with a brand new SUV. The Telegraph has the right idea, even throwing in self-righteous indignation for good measure, though you may wish to avoid writing like an eight year-old’s What I Did On My Holidays report.

If, like the rest of us, you missed it, lace your bitterness with a note of contempt. Or you could be a little more constructive, like The Guardian, who took the same line as Reinspired and blogged their picks of other people’s ravings.

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White Swan Event: why success is impossible to predict

Although the term had been floating around for a while, the phrase “Black Swan Event” only recently reached general usage. It’s a random, unpredictable and catastrophic event – so called because of the Old World presumption that all swans were white, which was scuppered when Willem de Vlamingh found a black one.

What anyone writing a blog or playing in a band (etc) will encounter are White Swan Events: random, unpredictable and fortuitous events. Why white swans? Because even though we don’t think of swans as being particularly rare, most people could go a number of years without seeing one. So imagine that you are on a boat and you see a white swan. That’s the kind of serendipity you can expect when being creative: things that you can reasonably expect to happen, can happen at any time, aren’t particularly weird, but are surprising and unpredictable nonetheless.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Skrillex that I didn’t put much time or effort or thought into, but has had more views each day than all the other posts that day combined. I quipped to Him Indoors that this post had more readers than the magazine in his hand – in fact, double – and it would be easy to see the now-consistent traffic charts as being the new average. But then, what happens when people tire of Skrillex? That there will come a point when the freakishly high hit count for that one post tails off, and with it, the traffic for the site as a whole. It’s not the first time it’s happened, either – there was a massive spike, for example, when I live-blogged my Radiohead review, or mentioned the Pottermore website.  I’ve seen the phenomenon elsewhere, too. At Collapse Board, it’s Shut Up About Kreayshawn Being Racist, at Brainwashed, it’s the Peter Christopherson interview. Posts that are phenomenally popular in comparison to the rest of the site. It’s not just blog posts, either. The most obvious white swan event is the one-hit wonder.  Continue reading

Stop putting yourself out of a job

The inspiration behind my record labels feature for Collapse Board was a perception that some labels are losing sight of how to run their business. This intriguing feature at Scribd highlights how music venues are falling into the same trap.

What this excellent piece, entitled Why LA Club Owners Are Totally Lost and Some Advice for Them from a Professional Musician, sets out are not just my own take on it – “if you’re expecting me to do all this, then precisely what the f*** are you there for?” – but how self-destructive this behaviour is.  Continue reading

What are record labels good for, anyway?

Written for Collapse Board

For about as long as record labels have been signing artists, there’s been a conflict between label and band; commerce and conscience.

Labels, so we’re told, are greedy exploitative bastards trying to line their pockets with the blood and sweat of the unwary musician. Labels will force you to abandon your creative dreams and dance to their puppet-strings. Labels will explain that they’re providing a service, investing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars and incalculable resources of connections and expertise. After all, since the 70s, bands have been perfectly able to press and distribute their own music, so why sign to a label at all?

The obvious answer would be that it demonstrates that someone else has had enough confidence in your band to invest in it. It’s one thing to have someone say, “I like your band”, but when someone says, “I like your band enough to bet $x on your future success”, it says something else entirely. Especially if that person has the type of reputation where their investment is a signal to others that your band is worth paying attention to. After all, once a label signs two or more good acts, it’s common for fans to look through the rest of the roster to see what else they might enjoy. Critics will be sent other similar bands on the label’s books in addition to the album they asked for. The advantage for the band is the benefit of association.

Where the relationship between artist and label breaks down is usually when the band feels that they’re not getting enough of a service for the money they’re effectively paying the label. In a traditional indie deal, the label might take 50%, but in return pay for all recording costs, handle all publicity and distribution and promotion, and offer an advance (loan) to cover touring costs. If your record is a huge success, this can leave you both happy, but if the record fails to recoup its cost the band can frequently end up owing the label money. Add to that the digital era where the download-to-purchase ratio is a thousand-to-one, and the musical climate is one in which budgets are tight and generosity is scarce. It’s no longer unusual for a label to expect the band to pay for their own mastering or even advertising costs, which would lead the artist to question, “If I’m paying for all this, then what the hell are you doing?”

Collapse Board invited three labels – Brassland, New York’s rising stars whose acts include The National and Buke & Gass; Armalyte Industries, home to K-Nitrate and Haloblack; and tenzenmen, the “Australasian DIY specialists” hosting 8 Eye Spy and Ourself Beside Me – to justify themselves before the court of you. Let’s start by asking them why on earth they ever thought setting up a record label would be a good idea … Continue reading

Why Everett True is wrong

Written for Collapse Board

“Mostly only art created by women has any validity. The male experience has been created and recreated so often” – Everett True, 1992

That is such bulls***. It’s like saying that only Tuvan throat singing/rock hybrids have any validity because you don’t get much of that, either. (And, f***, it’s good stuff.)  I don’t flip the sleeve over to check the gender before I’ll listen to the record, any more than I’d think too much about whether they were, say, Turkish. And, yes, a Turkish act does bring a certain flavour to the mix that you rarely get with non-Turkish acts. It’s informed and shaped by its Turkishness but not wholly defined by it because it’s more than that and to reduce it to that is to insult it.

Take Aylin Aslim, for example. I don’t know who she is, but I love her. I don’t have the slightest clue what she’s singing about (though Google translate tells me it’s called “ghoul”). There’s definitely a Turkishness to what she does, but I don’t set out to listen to Turkish folk. I just like this one – her – because she has such a don’t-give-a-f*** attitude and playful energy that makes her an absolute joy to listen to.

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How To Do Festivals

Glastonbury festival-goers covered in mud

So this year’s Glastonbury line-up sucked, much like most of the bills in recent years. Let’s take a look, shall we? U2, yuck, but at least they’re “stadium rock” so you could make excuses. Coldplay? Why did someone shoot Lennon and let these guys live?* Beyoncé? Hells, no! I mean, I bought Single Ladies along with everyone else on the sodding planet and even contemplated trying to learn the dance routine before realising that I could never get my booty to shake that way. I like Beyoncé – just not in that context. Jesse J? Isn’t she the one they’ve desperately, desperately been trying to push to not much interest from anyone? They put her on the Glastonbury bill? Janelle Monáe – I’d love to see her in concert, but that would be a concert. Somewhere with plush seats and a foyer. Ke$ha, ffs? But it’s not just Glastonbury: it’s an epidemic. It’s like people have completely forgotten what festivals are supposed to do and to be, and they’re getting it wrong.

So, here is Reinspired’s public information broadcast on how festivals are supposed to work.

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Producers that make (or break) the band

New on Collapse Board

Band-members are like the ingredients of a cake: get it wrong, and the result is bland or sickly. It’s about getting people together who make each other feel comfortable, who can inspire the audience, and who can deflate the ego of an overindulgent songwriter. The producer is the mould. If you pour cake mix onto a baking tray, you’ll end up with a flat, sticky mess. Some producers are like old-fashioned round cake tins, providing a strong but subtle structure that simply allows the flavours to emerge. Others make fancy shapes, so vibrant and daring that its cakeness comes second to its art-form. Like the line-up, the right producer for your band is the one that fits your personal dynamic, and brings out the best in what you, uniquely, have to offer.

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Line-ups that make (or break) the band

New on Collapse Board

When the two old enemies embraced this week in London, many fans were wondering if the decades-long feud was finally and fully laid to rest. Would there be a Pink Floyd reunion? A new tour? A new album? Realistically, isn’t it much too late for that now? More to the point – as many were quick to remark – the band could hardly reunite since Richard Wright had died in 2008.

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