Archive for the 'Rant' Category

Leeds Festival – Ain’t What It Used To Be!

The Leeds Festival CrowdI’ve been an avid festival-goer since about 1992 when the local college radio station, WRAS, held a one-day event at Lakewood Amphitheatre in Atlanta. On the bill were The Soup Dragons, The Connells, +Live+, Material Issue and Arrested Development, among others. I was 18 years old and it was fantastic – a day of live music in the sun with loads of other teenagers and college students. The following summer, I attended my first Lollapalooza at an airfield in Rhode Island. We watched Rage Against the Machine, Fishbone, Alice in Chains and Primus. The Verve were also on the bill but we were queuing for the carpark at the time. It was 100,000 grunge kids getting off their faces, moshing and having fun.

Since I’ve been in the UK – 10 years next month – I’ve been to every major festival, excepting Download, and some of the smaller ones too, and I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. Each one has its own personality, its own quirks and its own unique vibe and fanbase. Glastonbury, my least favourite, truth be told, has the reputation of a hippie lovefest. In reality it’s loads of yuppies getting off their faces so badly they can’t tell how anti-social they are, but it’s unique and the music is amazing, even if most people aren’t really there for the bands. T in the Park is like the Scottish Glastonbury, it’s everything I expected from Glastonbury from the happy, outgoing, friendly crowds, to the range of bands across all the stages, to the laid-back attitude. V is like a festival-lite. It’s a festival for folk who don’t rough it, who listen to MOR stations like Virgin and it’s corporate and full of bands that 30-somethings play at dinner parties. Occasionally they outdo themselves, like when they booked the Pixies and NERD on the mainstage one year, but even though it’s incredibly corporate and the music is distinctly average, it’s also laid back and I have, usually, enjoyed it. Guilfest is the hippie family festival. The acts are folky, older and the crowd are middle-aged, but the year I went it was well organised and the bands were okay. Summer Sundae is more of a folky and world music place, with rock bands included. Sponsored by 6 Music, it has a wide range of acts, a family vibe and people are definitely there for the music. All Tomorrow’s Parties is indie heaven. By indie, of course, I mean old school indie where the bands are actually on indie labels, not merely guys with guitars who’ve been on the cover of the NME. It’s indie snobbery at it’s finest, where you talk to people about the obscure stuff on the bill that they love and you’ve never heard of, and you compare gig stories. Reading, and later Leeds, is, or used to be, somewhere in between ATP, Download and T. It was the rock, metal and indie festival for music lovers. Used to be.

In prior years when we went to Leeds Festival – and we’ve been all but about 2 years since it started – it was an ecclectic audience of young emo/skater kids in hoodies with chains attached to their baggy trousers, aging, grey-haired rockers and goths and old school indie types like The Ledge and myself. It was a proper rock festival and even if the three groups didn’t necessarily mix happily, we all had our stages and bands and could look on at the other lots, slightly bemused. Leeds was a festival that put acts like The Moldy Peaches, Whale, Pavement and Eels on the main stage. One year we watched Sparklehorse in a tent while the sounds of Ice T spilled over from next door. We’ve seen Guided By Voices, Stereolab, Richard Hawley, Arab Strap, The Shins, Adam Green, Clor, Evan Dando, Frank Black and the Catholics and others over the years. It was a festival where if it was metal day on the main stage, you could count on seeing unusual and ecclectic indie acts in the tents that you’d been meaning to check out for months, if not years. It was great. We would buy our tickets based on a couple of main stage acts and tent headliners and wait for the joys of the smaller stages to be announced. This year, in fact, we did the same, thrilled at the prospect of Interpol, The Arcade Fire, Smashing Pumpkins and The Shins. Apart from The Hold Steady being added a month later, as expected, that was as good as it got.

No mind, we thought, Leeds is always an interesting festival with a crowd deeply into their music, we’ll go, we’ll watch a few bands, we’ll have fun. And then the rest of the lineup came out. Gone were the vast range of indie bands, replaced by NME favourites. It was as if the bookers could not be arsed, picked up an issue of the NME and booked everything mentioned. Tents and main stage were no different, all the bands were either second rate emo acts or sounded like poor imitations of the very poor Arctic Monkeys and Babyshambles. Oh and Razorshite. Who the fuck booked Razorshite as a headliner? Does anyone really even like them or do they just tolerate them?

Ok, so the bands were a bit shite, but maybe the crowds really are into these acts and we’ve just morphed into the world’s biggest indie snobs and we just don’t get it anymore? Except the Leeds crowd was not the same Leeds crowd. Gone the hairy rockers. Gone the goths. Gone the emo kids with their bad behavior and their love of screamo and metal. In fact, the whole crowd looked like they’d been vomited up by Topshop aged 18-22. And these kids were not at this festival cause of the bands. These kids were at this festival cause Kate Moss says it’s cool. How could we tell? There were far more girls wearing wellies ala Moss at Glastonbury (in subtropical conditions, no less) than there were people wearing band T-shirts. We experienced about 2 crowd singalongs – during The Hold Steady and, oddly, the 1990s. These kids weren’t even drinking! Nope, the campsite was can-free, sans puking kids, sans early morning drunkenness. It was sterile and full of people who simply wanted to be seen – often in matching, specially printed T-shirts announcing “Sal’s Girls at Leeds 2007” or “Lads out and about from Newcastle to Leeds 2007” complete with names on the back. These kids didn’t care if they were in the Carling Tent, the LockUp Stage or the Main Stage – it all sounded the same anyway – all they wanted to do was stand around, look cool and throw their £3.30 pints into the people trying to enjoy the music.

I have never – not even at V – had such a bland and sterile festival experience. There was no, bite, no kick and no sense of real rebellion. This was “indie” as defined by the NME, packaged up by Topshop and sold at £145 a ticket to kids who don’t understand that it’s not rebellion if 80,000 other people are doing it exactly the same way.

Sadly, this lack of atmosphere affected the music as well. Whereas 3 years ago I stood unable to see at the main stage screaming along with the whole crowd to The Hives and Franz Ferdinand, this year, packed in at nearly the same place, the crowd all but talked through The Arcade Fire and Interpol. There was a hint of attitude during the Hold Steady but possibly because the crowd contained the freaks and outcasts who had come for the music and again, the few remaining indie fans danced during Battles, but the tent was only half-full. While we saw a few acts we’d genuinely wanted to see – Devendra Banhart pulling a fan out of the crowd to play a song he’d written was charming; The Hold Steady were as amazing as ever and Tad Kubler’s guitar spin was a seriously great rock moment; Peter, Bjorn & John were brilliant and I need to buy their newest album now; Brakes were as cheery and enjoyable as ever and The Shins had me jumping and singing like a drunken fool – I fear that this will be the last time we attempt a whole weekend at Leeds. There’s too many great boutique festivals now that do have the atmosphere and do challenge festival-goers to broaden their musical horizons.

It is a sad day to see Reading/Leeds sell its soul for a few bucks. Leeds Festival R.I.P. You were a great festival once.

Pavement – We Dance

Guided By Voices – Hot Freaks

Whale – Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe

Posted by JustHipper on 27th August 2007 at 4:38 pm | comments (134)
File under Festival Reviews,Gig-goer of the Week,Rant.

The Ticketmaster TicketExchange – New Ways to Get Your Cash

Scarlet Mist has a blog post up on their MySpace page about Ticketmaster’s new Ticket swap facility. If they’re correct, then anybody who wants to can purchase a ticket via Ticketmaster, decide after a couple of days that they don’t want it, and put it up for sale via Ticketmaster at whatever price they choose using their new TicketExchange.

So to sum this up, Ticketmaster have decided that if the touts are making money off their tickets they want part of the profit. They’re helping the touts out by giving them a way to prove the tickets exist, and the touts are giving Ticketmaster a fee for their troubles, because Ticketmaster is charging the seller to resell the undispatched ticket. Not only are they charging the seller, though, they also charge the buyer which means they’re getting their service charge paid a second time on the same tickets, even though they’ve already put a service charge onto the inital cost of the ticket. Finally, they’re charging for the delivery – this is also for the second time because that will have already gone on the purchase price. This delivery fee includes the standard £2 for printing your own ticket from what’s displayed on the screen on your account.

So how does this help the fans? How does this help stop the touting problem?

The issue with which they are ostensibly dealing is touting – the ever-worsening scenario of businesses and individuals buying scads more tickets than they need for a show or an event, stopping people who do want those tickets from getting them at the price at which the artists and promoters intended them to have them – and reselling them on often at 200% or 300% markups, thereby pricing most people out of the market and stopping kids from getting to go see their favourite bands. So how is setting up a facility to enable this, to even help it along, doing anything about the situtation? As far as I can tell, it’s only helping Ticketmaster make sneaky extra money off tickets they’ve already sold once, so why wouldn’t they want to encourage the touts to use their service and to hike up the prices as much as they choose?

Ultimately, I don’t think anybody but those of us buying the tickets really cares about this problem, although they should, because if it carries on people are simply going to stop going to gigs and festivals because of the prohibitive costs.

Once again music fans, don’t let them do it. If you don’t get a ticket at face value, don’t go. When venues start to have noticibly huge gaps of seats for ostensibly sold-out shows, the artists will maybe start to stick their necks out for us. And if you don’t have to, don’t use Ticketmaster. We’d recommend We Got Tickets, they use e-ticketing and don’t add idiotic service charges to print your own tickets.

Posted by JustHipper on 27th February 2007 at 10:39 am | comments (8)
File under Rant,Tickets.

Arcade Fire Tour, Ticket Agencies Crash

Anyone manage to get Arcade Fire tickets this morning? I sure hope so cause they’re pretty much the best live band I’ve ever seen. We’ve scored a pair for both nights in Manchester but the whole experience left me fuming, not ecstatic.

This morning at about 8:50am I set out to find out who was selling tickets. The Ledge was going to try and get tickets for March 8 at the Manchester Apollo and I was meant to try for tickets for the following night, March 9. Ticketline had them “on sale soon,” Ticketmaster had them “on sale Friday at 9:00am, More info here” and See Tickets was producing an error message saying the server was busy, please come back later. At 9:00am Ticketline crashed and I was getting a “cannot contact site” page error. Ticketmaster was showing the tickets as on sale but everytime I tried to order I was told there were no tickets available for that event – making it appear sold out. I knew that could not be possible so I kept trying. At about 9:12am I was told they could sell me two seated tickets (crap seats as well), and as I was at work and did not want to risk losing tickets altogether and as Ticketmaster claimed they were the “Best Available” I purchased them. I received an email from The Ledge as I was doing this saying he had managed to get 2 tickets for the gig on the 8th, also really poor seats, and that it had only taken him 2 tries – so make that what 9:05am and already all the standing tickets and half the seats had gone?

What I want to know is, why does this happen every time a popular gig goes on sale? Inevitably, as the tickets go on sale not a single online ticket seller can cope with demand and their sites crash. Now, probably everybody does what I do which is open three windows and buy from whoever delivers the goods first. This means every person trying to buy tickets has at least 3 sites, so they’re all getting the same huge volume of traffic. But, if they were all reliable and did not crash, then I wouldn’t try all three at once, I’d only go to the one I preferred. For some reason, however, despite the fact that this situation probably occurs once a week, at least, these sites, who charge outrageous amounts of money for the privilege of using them, can’t manage to up their bandwidth. You’d think they could cut some sort of deal with their hosting company to give them enough bandwidth to cope with for a couple of hours around the sale of major events. By not doing so, they not only anger and frustrate customers, but they pretty much show their complete disdain for their customers – much like when they don’t really actively pursue touts on auction sites since they can’t be bothered to make the effort since profit is profit.

Since this morning, there are already tickets up on eBay at outrageous prices and companies such as TicketTout.net are selling the tickets at between 4 and 9 times the face value. Do a Google search for “TicketTout” and look at the reviews people are writing about them all over the internet.

What still floors me is that this shoddy service is allowed to continue. Ticket agencies can add whatever surcharges they want onto tickets – The Ledge paid £2.75 this morning for the privilege of printing off his own ticket at home using his own paper and printer ink. Touting is legal as re-seller agencies are allowed to buy up hundreds of tickets for even small-ish gigs to resell at outrageous prices, and auction sites are perfectly happy with their members doing the same. If it is illegal for sporting events, why is this not illegal for all events? It’s just as much a problem and a pain for music fans as for sports fans, and it’s just as lucrative an industry.

Sadly, we remain in the same position as ever, which is either deal with the industry as it stands or stop going to gigs. You can, however, sign an e-petition to make ticket touting illegal on the government’s website.

As ever, if you didn’t manage to get tickets this morning, don’t go to eBay, try Scarlet Mist.

Posted by JustHipper on 12th January 2007 at 5:04 pm | comments (4)
File under Rant,Tickets.

See Tickets, Buy Tickets, Go Bankrupt

Hurrah! The Hold Steady are touring and will be playing at Jabez Clegg on 13th February. The Hold Steady currently hold the title of “Band I Most Want To See Who I Haven’t Seen Already And Haven’t Died Or Split Up Yet” in my own pathetic reality. It’s a Club Fandango promotion and if you go to their website you’ll find a link to buy tickets which will direct you to the See Tickets website. Once you’ve found the gig on See Tickets you’ll first notice the very reasonable price of £6 a ticket plus the obligatory booking fee of 75 pence. But look further to the right and you will notice that See Tickets are charging an unholy £4.85 per transaction for delivery. Blimey. If you want to buy a single ticket then it will cost you a total of £11.60 which, for a £6 ticket, is a massive 93% mark up.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of this attempt at legalised robbery, I firstly did a little research on the See Tickets site and found that for all other Jabez Clegg gigs listed the delivery transaction charge was £2: still a major rip-off for the price of a stamp, an envelope and 15 seconds of someone’s time, but a bargaining point nonetheless.

I then tried to find if any other agents were offering tickets: they weren’t. I phoned Piccadilly Box Office but to no avail and also phoned Jabez Clegg where I was told that they don’t sell tickets at the venue and was then given a number to ring for tickets; the number was for Piccadilly Box Office.

Next, I disguised myself as a humble punter and phoned See Tickets to book a single ticket for the gig in question. Naturally, I was exasperated when the guy at the other end tried to charge me £11.60 for a £6 ticket and put the phone down before he could relieve me of any of my hard earned. So I phoned See Tickets customer services to complain about the astronomical transaction fee and was told by the pleasant young woman on the other end of the phone that See Tickets always send out “standing only” tickets by special delivery (she didn’t explain why). “But,” I protested, “why is the transaction fee for all the other Jabez Clegg gigs only £2?”. At this point she put me on hold as she investigated. When she came back a couple of minutes later she told me that the tickets had to be sent special delivery as See Tickets had not been given permission by the gig promoters, Club Fandango, to reproduce any lost tickets. Now, See Tickets use a company called SMS for their special deliveries and if you’re not in when they attempt to deliver you get a card through the door asking you to phone them to arrange a time for the delivery. They do not have a depot that you can go to to pick up the tickets yourself and they will not deliver without a signature. The delivery times are half day slots except for Saturdays when they could arrive at any time between 8am and 6pm. So, for your £11.60 you’ll probably have to spend all day Saturday at home, waiting.

I then checked Club Fandango’s website to see if any of their other gigs were being sold through See Tickets. They weren’t: all the other gigs on the site were being sold through either Ticketline or We Got Tickets, two of the less unscrupulous agents on the block. However, the website does have a link that lets you send them an email request to reserve advance tickets for all of their gigs, to be picked up and paid for on the door, presumably without even a booking fee attached. Yippee. I duly sent a request for two tickets along with an abridged version of these events and a few questions about what See Tickets had said and whether tickets would be available from any other outlets. I’ll let you know when I get a reply.

So, all you sniffling indie kids, hold steady if you want tickets to see The Hold Steady. Get over to the Club Fandango site and hit the “Advance Tickets” button and ask them kindly to hold your tickets on the door.

Club Fandango

The Hold Steady

See Tickets

Jabez Clegg

The Hold Steady – Positive Jam

Posted by The Ledge on 5th January 2007 at 5:55 pm | comments (13)
File under News,Rant,Tickets.

Kill All Touts, part 2

So we’re not particularly pleased with eBay’s policy towards ticket auctions here at Indie Cred, even if, I admit, we’ve bought tickets that way in the past. We’ve never spent much more than the ticket price though. The Ledge did, on one occasion, sell a pair of Arcade Fire tickets that we could not use (as the Pixies announced a tour date the same night). The intention though was to take the money from the auction of our pair and use it to buy tickets to the Sheffield gig, which we did not manage to do in the end. But not for lack of trying. If we’d known about Scarlet Mist at the time, we’d have done it that way and tried to arrange a swap.

But I digress.

I have another story.

This is the story of the man known to someone I know, who walked into his office last Friday afternoon and began bragging about how he’d bought four Killers tickets and had placed two of them straight onto eBay and the bidding was already at over £200. This is the story of the fan who thinks it’s cool and acceptable to rip off other fans. Now, surely being a fan of a band makes you part of a larger community. It means that you share something in common with others, something that ties you together, because, face it, music is important to us in our lives, we get very emotional about it. We should understand that others with the same passion feel the same emotion. We should understand that the elation we feel when our favourite band tours or releases a record is the same elation other fans feel. We should understand that the abject disappointment and misery we would feel if we failed to get tickets to a gig is the same that other fans feel. And we should understand that if we did not get tickets to see our favourite band and went on an internet auction site and found other fans trying to fleece us we’d probably become homicidal.

Why do fans take advantage of other fans?

A very nice woman on a forum when I brought this up told me that she always buys extra tickets for popular gigs if she manages to get through and get any tickets. She can then offer these to fans on the band’s forum at face value so that people who were unlucky have a chance to get the tickets they missed out on without having to pay over the odds to a tout. To me, this is how music fans should behave. They should treat each other with the care and kindness and respect they want themselves.

Fandom is not a competition, it’s a shared experience.

So a word of warning to all you “fans” out there who wish to take advantage of other fans. When the revolution happens, you’ll be the first ones with your backs against the wall.

Posted by JustHipper on 19th September 2006 at 8:12 pm | comments (7)
File under Rant.

Kill All Touts

Now, I’m sure that is not a controvertial sentiment I’ve just expressed there. We’ve all been there: wanted tickets to a gig, tickets sold out and the only way to get them was by paying over the odds to a tout. The thing is, back in the old days, the touts bought up some tickets, not like, say, half via the internet cause they had to queue up all night just like the rest of us, and then they hawked them outside the gig on the night. These days, they can spam the system of every ticket website going, keep the real fans out and buy up hundreds of tickets which they can quite easily sell on via eBay. Seriously, it’s just gotten out of control.

I’m going to tell you all a little story.

On Friday, the Killers put tickets on sale for their November tour. Most of these dates are in pretty small venues – Nottingham Rock City and Manchester Apollo being two that spring to mind. Now, I realise the Killers suck live. In fact, most of the people reading this will say that the Killers suck full stop. But my friend, Bricking Chick, loves them. We used their debut album to keep us awake on the overnight drive home from T in the Park, screaming along off-key to ‘Mr. Brightside’ and ‘All The Things I’ve Done’. She was desperate to see them live. So desperate, she was in the office early on Friday morning and on her mobile and the internet on four different websites trying to get one single pair of tickets. There was not a ticket website that was working. All the phone lines were busy. The gigs all sold out in under five minutes. Now, I find that amazing since all the ticket websites were not working, but there you go. The mysteries of the internet. She was gutted.

I pointed out that very often a couple of hours after this happens they get all the tickets for rejected credit cards back and put them back on sale. A person from Piccadilly Box Office confirmed this. So about 11am she was back on the computer and phone ringing around and trying to get some re-released tickets. None came up, to our knowledge. This was the point at which she got very curious and went on eBay. eBay already, before noon the day the tickets went on sale, had nearly 100 pairs of Killers tickets listed. All of these were already priced in the hundreds. By 2pm there were nearly 400 listings. This was hours after the tickets went on sale. Imagine how many pairs will be sold between now and November? Think hard. So, we’re talking a hefty percentage of the tickets for a very small tour. Now somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but is it not against the law to sell tickets on at more than their face value?

Now Bricking Chick is a clever woman. She phoned up See Tickets and asked what they do about these things. She was told that if they know the ticket numbers, they cancel the orders. She was also told that they make bids on the tickets themselves to stop the touts getting away with it. Large bids. Bricking Chick made a couple of very large bids too. £1,000,000 I believe. For one set she was outbid and lost. She won the other at £790,000. She’s asked the tout selling them for the ticket numbers and order reference so she can check there’s actual tickets involved before she transfers the funds…can anyone see where this is going?

Now I, for my part, attempted to contact eBay customer service about this issue. First I found to report Event Tickets you could do no more than submit up to 10 item numbers. Well, that won’t take long then, 400 items at 10 items an email, most on 24-hour auctions, yeah I’m sure it will be worth the 2 or 3 hours it would take me. I submitted 10 items. Then I went through a different form. It still wanted an item number. You can’t just email a general question, see. I listed one item number and sent the following note:

Message: This item number is one example of a serious problem. I did this: http://search.ebay.co.uk/search/search.dll?from=R40&satitle=killers+tickets after my friend failed to get tickets LEGALLY for the Killers. There are nearly 400 people selling tickets above face value ILLEGALLY on your site. Why are you encouraging and allowing touts to rip off fans? Why do you let it carry on? This is unethical and cruel and surely not the corporate image of your brand you want to convey and you want bloggers to be publicising? Get these down now. Stop making the touting problem worse. Thank you.

I received the following reply:

Thank you for your report of item number 180028703931, the two tickets
for The Killers, which you feel is in violation of our site policies.

We review all items that are reported to us and a determination is made
on whether the item is in violation of our policies. When a violation
has been committed we will take the appropriate action for that item.

There will be times when offenders will slip by because they have not
been reported to us. Please note that even if some sellers are currently
in violation of eBay guidelines this does not lessen the seriousness of
the violations for those sellers whose auctions have been reported to
us.

I will look into the item you have reported to us as quickly as
possible. eBay’s Community Watch team reviews all user reports of items,
normally within 24 -36 hours.

So, you see, they don’t monitor everything. They can’t. But here’s the rub. If it is against their policy and against the law for tickets to be sold over the ticket price, why are they allowed on as auctions at all? Surely that is asking for a whole heap of trouble. Why are they not allowed only as “Buy it Now” items listed at face value? Or simply not at all. This would solve a lot of problems. It would keep eBay from being complicit in allowing fans to get ripped off by dickheads and criminals looking to take advantage of people’s emotional connection to the music they love. It’s easy to say “Don’t buy them” to people, but if it’s your favourite band ever, and you can afford it, sort of…. I have my limits, but if, say, Morrissey did a farewell tour before retiring and I knew I may never get to see him again, those limits would bloody well go out the window I assure you! But at least if touts were discouraged from buying because they couldn’t make any money then more fans would get tickets. And fans needing to sell tickets on for whatever reason could use Scarlet Mist to sell them on at face value to other fans.

I guess my point is, why can’t this be monitored? I know there’s been a lot in the news recently and it’s being looked into, but why won’t sites like eBay make it a policy of simply not allowing ticket auctions? That would solve a lot of the problems. Why can’t ticket agencies make like Glastonbury and print names on tickets and require photo I.D. for popular gigs? This would solve a lot of the problems.

I guess what I’m saying is, if the bands and the ticket agencies and the corporate satan that is eBay actually had a heart about what music fans go through trying to get tickets for popular shows, surely something could be enacted pretty much immediately that would solve the problem?

Posted by JustHipper on 17th September 2006 at 2:13 pm | comments (20)
File under Rant.

Opt-in or Sell Out? Brett Anderson and The Great Indie Debate

Okay, word of warning, a rant is about to ensue, so prepare to be bored quickly or irritated by the following opinion. But please, do respond because I’d like some perspective from others on this issue.

Now, I’ve never been one to get worked up about the whole issue of the indie sell-out. I can understand a band signing to a major label to get more exposure. As artists I would think the whole point for a band would be to get their music to as many people as possible, as long as they can do it without compromising their creative vision. I cringed not when the likes of The Decemberists and Death Cab for Cutie signed to major labels as their following had outgrown the ability of their respective indies to promote them to an ever-growing audience. So fair dues to them. I hope both bands are able to maintain the same standard of output and sell a million records. I do.

Now again, I do cringe whenever I hear a song I like in an ad. Joanna Newsom advertising mobile phones, The Cure backtracking a car advert. It’s hideous. It truly is. But for all I know Joanna Newsom uses that network or some member of the Cure bought a child or a relative that car. If they have never said they detest the idea of using their music as advertisement then as much as I dislike it, at least it’s not hypocrisy. I’d hate to think, however, that any musician who wasn’t desperate, about to become homeless or be thrown in jail for non-payment of debts would only ever sell a piece of music to an advertiser if they actually liked the product in question. Just like John Peel used to do. He did loads of adverts but only for products and services he used himself. I even don’t really mind U2, those spokesmen for Make Trade Fair and anti-globalization selling a song to Apple for use in an Ipod commercial because I suspect they probably all own Ipods. So, fair dues. They like the product, they’re willing to put their name behind it. But what about artists who say one thing and do another?

Now, I admit, I’m working with a particular name in mind. Someone whose music I have loved with a passion for the last 13 years or so and someone whose songs shaped a lot of what I listen to now and brought me a lot of comfort and solace through some very dark points in my life. Stand up, Mr. Brett Lewis Anderson, formerly of Suede. Stand up the man whose recent output with The Tears has berated fashion magazines, celebrity culture and consumerism. Stand up the man who wrote a song called “Branded” about how the emptiness of modern society and the consumer culture could never bring happiness. Stand up the man who condemned the bands involved in Live 8 for being more interested in self-promotion than in actually helping end world poverty – even though they were still helping the cause, whether or not it was for the right reasons. Stand up the man who will go to a product launch and pose for the photographers at the drop of a hat. Stand up the man who was willing to have his song, “She’s in Fashion,” selling furniture for MFI. Stand up the man who cannot even provide a decent justification or answer whether or not he would go into the shop himself. I give you the webchat, taken from BrettAnderson.co.uk when asked, by me (despite attributing the question to someone else), “Brett, how do you feel about MFI using your song in an advert?” He replied:

> beezig asks about the MFI ad. i realize that in
> the light of this some of my songs (branded,
> because you’re worthless etc) assume an irony or
> even a hypocrisy. what can i say?….at the end of
> the day we’ve all got to put food on the table. i
> admit to being a slave to the gnashing,savage jaws
> of the capitalist machine as much as the next man.
> no one who walks past a gap advert or flicks
> through a magazine is exempt…doesn’t mean you
> can’t be aware of it and hate it with all the
> power in your soul…just know that you are NEVER
> truly free despite what comedians like bush et al
> tell you

So, he’s against advertising, he thinks it’s vile but since he can’t beat ’em, he might as well join ’em? So, why do you berate the public for the same thing? For wanting money for wanting things? If you see it as a problem, why contribute to the problem? Surely if it is a problem at least if you need to do it for the money you pick a store or product you like? He didn’t respond when asked if he’d shop in MFI. But knowing what he’s done, admitting it’s hypocritical, he then starts quoting, in response to another question, the following lyric from his forthcoming solo album, out in all good record shops in January:

baby thought she really needed that sofa
baby thought she really wanted that dress
baby thought she really had to have 2 cars
thought she’d be happy if she had larger breasts
everybody said you can’t live with out them
everybody said you have to say ‘yes’
so baby spent her evrything on this lifestyle
but it’s a lifestyle that doesn’t exist

So he’s happily complicit? He says don’t do it, he does it? Which is it Brett?

This leaves an incredibly bitter taste in my mouth because my problem is not that he sold a song to an advertiser for money, if he needed the money. My problem is that he then has a go at others who do similar sorts of things. He complains about the state of society but he’s not got the bottle to stand up for what he believes in and turn the money down and just tighten up his spending, sack his PA, start getting the Tube instead of taxis, maybe have one less holiday to Cuba or Rome or Barcelona or wherever. If you’re going to make anti-consumerism, and the evils of branding and advertising a central tenet of your art, is it not entirely wrong to then allow your music to be used for branding and advertising and to keep going to product launches and let your picture be taken there, thereby suggesting that you’re behind that product and are happy to have your image used on behalf of that product?

Is this not in itself the great artistic sell-out? Or, am I simply taking this all too seriously, I should not expect artists to live up to their own artistic visions and I should realise that Brett is only human and out for the cash like everyone else?

I hate being let down by people I respect. I hope eventually Brett will provide a decent justification for his hypocrisy beyond “Can’t get away from society, sorry.” I also hope that no more of my musical heroes fall prey to the corporate dollar and the quest for image over their own utopian vision.

So, comments, criticisms folks: Should we hold artists to practise what they preach? Should they strive to live up to their own words or is it enough that they’ve said it in a song, they can then live however they please?

Posted by JustHipper on 19th June 2006 at 9:07 pm | comments (14)
File under Rant.

NME: Now Minus Ethics

A post went up on the Londonist (via Chromewaves) earlier today claiming that the NME had doctored its end-of-year albums list, presumably to make it more reader-friendly. The story got taken down after a “communication” from the NME but it’s still in the Google cache here. This isn’t the first time the once-esteemed weekly has been under suspicion of fixing its reviews to suit its reader demographic. A review of The Others’ album in Stylus Magazine claimed that they had to search high and low to find a freelancer who would give this appalling piece of shit a reasonable review, while the writer of the NME review of The Tears’ Here Come The Tears album said on The Tears’ Forum earlier this year that he wanted to give it a 10 but the NME knocked it down to an 8 yet still printed his gushing review in its entirety. The writer’s PM to a member of The Indie Credential team went as follows:

Hi there.

I’m not actually employed by the NME, I’m freelance, but I’m sure that they do have an agenda with certain bands and that marks get changed all the time. On the one hand, yeah, it does sort of suck, but at the same time a magazine of that size has to maintain good relations with the PR side of the industry, which sometimes means that the outcome of a review is ‘pre-determined’. It’s politics, but it’s not really politics that the NME dictates, more just the way of the industry.

But yeah, I did give The Tears album 10 and would have liked it to be at least a 9 – I think the 8 looks a bit silly given the review…

No surprise then that Here Come The Tears was bumped off the final list. Allegedly.

Posted by The Ledge on 2nd December 2005 at 7:41 pm | comments (3)
File under Rant.

Ever Get the Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?

Once upon a time, the way things worked was you’d hear a song on the radio that you liked. If you liked it enough you might go buy it as a single (and the single would have four tracks and cost about £1.99, but that’s another rant). Eventually, the band would release a second single. Again, you’d hear it on the radio, probably on John Peel’s show and you might even hear it done in a session. It’s also possible that you might manage to catch the band in question on tour, either their own or opening for someone else.

All of this activity, then, would lead to an album. And you’d go out and buy the album in the first couple of weeks after its release. You might even go see the band play live, this time definitely headlining. There might be a third, or even fourth single. You might buy them, you might not, depends on which tracks were released and what reviewers said about the b-sides. After 8 months or a year (or 18 months) the band would disappear back into the studio and start working on a second album.

Does that sound familiar?

Not anymore.

Yes, this week has seen the re-release of Bloc Party’s excellent debut album Silent Alarm. The re-release comes complete with two extra tracks not on the original release as well as a DVD. Yes, you heard it right. All those people who waited a year to buy the album have just been rewarded. For the same price you paid back before Bloc Party were playing large venues, the latecomers have been rewarded with two extra tracks and a DVD. To add insult to injury, fans who purchased the album before this travesty have been given the chance to purchase the DVD (yes that same DVD the noobs are getting for free) for £4.99. So, having spent hard earned cash to see Bloc Party when they were still in toilet venues, having bought the album on the first week of release and having told everyone I know to check them out, the band’s record label have rewarded me by allowing me to buy a DVD people who have contributed less to their bank accounts are getting for free.

Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t seem right.

Now far be it from me to come out as a full-on indie snob. I think Bloc Party are a fantastic band and the more people who discover this the better. Bloc Party deserve to be playing massive venues to huge acclaim. They’re interesting and intelligent and rather good songwriters. But I do feel a bit like the record label are biting the hands that feed them a bit.

Now, Bloc Party are not the only band to have done this. It’s really quite unfair that I’m poking them with my big stick. In recent memory bands who have pulled a similar nasty stunt include The Libertines, Elbow and Morrissey. At least with Moz the extra CD only had b-sides he’d already released so if you’d bought the singles, like most Moz fanatics, then you were ok.

In the other two cases, however, if you wanted the extra CD or DVD you needed to either buy the album a second time or at the very least shell out a few extra pounds for the extra CD or DVD.

The problem here, though, is that hardcore fans are likely to spend that extra money. So record labels know they can take advantage of that.

I remember about 15 years ago a band called James released an album called Goldmother. Subsequently they also released two singles that sold by the bucketload. You might have heard of them. One was called “Lose Control.” The other was a little-known ditty called “Sit Down.” Subsequently the band re-released Goldmother with a different tracklisting. They removed two songs, “Hang On” and “Crescendo,” and replaced them with the aforementioned singles. Fans were aghast. They complained in droves, so the record label allowed fans to exchange the original for the re-release, should they so desire.

Now, call me crazy but an album with a changed tracklisting, I’d buy both in order to have all four songs. But in the case of adding entirely extra discs to a package, why shouldn’t fans who can prove they’ve bought an album be given the extra disc for free as a thank you for their loyalty? Or even better, start a fan club, charge a nominal membership fee and send the fanclub the free disc. Then, instead of giving it out to latecomers, just drop the price of the CD by a couple of pounds into the mid-price range. Either way, fans won’t feel they’ve been screwed.

I’m sure this is going to fall on deaf ears because record labels know they’re onto a winner. People who might not have bought the album will because they feel they’re getting something for nothing. At the same time, the hardcore will go out and buy the package a second time. Result.

Personally, I think it’s time for the bands to stand up to this, take control of what is done with their songs and just say no.

Posted by JustHipper on 19th October 2005 at 9:21 pm | comments (8)
File under Random comment,Rant.