Rum, Sodomy & the Lash

January is a weird month. So grey, so many opportunities to drop your ill fated resolutions, so little time to maintain the space in your life. Thankfully we have Twitter in our world now - so much easier to just maintain a status of 140 characters.

Spotted on the cover of last weeks Marketing mag was a report of Barcadi's plans for their new signing - Groove Armada. They intend to encourage fans to spread Groove Armada's EP virally - with a reward of additional material for those that share the most.

This is interesting on two levels:

1. Encouraging viral marketing through reward based on involvement. Other digital media uses the same premise - for example, news groups and fan sites will often give enhanced status for those who contribute the most on forums, wikis etc.  But will this work with the true sneezers - those trusted tastemakers who spread the word? Will they really spam others just to get more music?

2. Barcardi using Groove Armada to build brand value. They want music fans to draw a connection between dance music and a big rum party. What better way to get that level of endorsement, but to effectively buy the band itself.

Groove Armada wanted out of their arrangements with Sony BMG. But by getting in bed with Barcardi have they gotten a better deal? Did this give them cash stability at a time of industry uncertainty, but at the expense of their integrity?


Thank You, Clone Records

It is with deep regret that I read today about the closure of Clone Records.

Around the time we started to release our own records, I really began to admire Clone. Here was a label releasing brilliant electronic music, often beyond the radar of the status quo - but always consistent within their vision. They are what I have always admired a label to be.

Their press release states:

"Now we do understand the tricks and formulas of dance music and the different users. However using these tricks and formulas just to ensure maximum effect would be betrayal to our own musical ethics because our goal with Clone records is to entertain ourself with the music we release (and to be clear... with the music...and not the side effects)."

Their goal was to release quality music, not generic throwaway trash for the dancefloor. It is the most marvelous of ambitions - one which we have always held as a Gaymonkey value. 

Perhaps in this dying age of vinyl they have suffered from not increasing the frequency of their releases. But I applaud their integrity - and most of all, I thank them for discovering Putsch '79 - one of my favourite electrodisco acts. For my second single I asked them to remix "Strut" and was very honoured when they said yes - out of respect I offer it here for download. 


Leaders of Men

It would be impossible to blog today and not mention the inauguration of Obama. Walking through London just before the ceremony I was amazed by the number TVs and PCs tuned to the coverage. I can't remember a time when a political event commanded such an audience, and certainly couldn't imagine the swearing-in of a British Prime Minister ever capturing the attention of so many.

But this is a different event. Obama has become a symbol of hope and change. The whole world is watching - expecting him to usher in a new era. And amidst the economic gloom, the apocalyptic climate crisis, war after war in the Middle East, this glimmer of dynamic leadership is worthy of everyone's applause.

Welcome, Mr President. 


Give Me Time - To Realise My Crime

The weekend's papers are all carrying the verdict in Boy George's latest trial for false imprisonment. Most feature the image of the now bloated and sullen pop star as he arrived in court on Friday. His story, from 80s icon through to reinvention as a club DJ, is marred with drug abuse - a rollercoaster of highs and lows, comebacks and downfall.

Perhaps it is no surprise that Boy George finds himself in this situation. He was barely into his twenties when Culture Club exploded worldwide, with George thrust into megastardom. What must it be like to suddenly find yourself the centre of the universe? Especially at this time in a decade known for its excess - it is understandable that many stars of this time ended up trapped in drug addiction. Thats part of rock'n'roll, isn't it? an essential element to becoming a pop brand. The problem is, when the fame fades, who is there to help them pick up the pieces?

In no way should Boy George be summarily excused for his downward spiral - responsibility ultimately lies with him. But I also wonder how record labels get away without fingers being pointed at them. Big corporations have a duty of care towards their employees. Unfortunately artists are not seen as employees (the artists ego would never allow that) - rather they are commodities that labels exploit - but surely the label should play a part in guaranteeing their well-being. For each tabloid column inch reporting Amy Winehouse's perpetual deterioration, seldom do you see a comment from her label detailing what they are doing to help the singer get back on the straight and narrow. Is it because cleaning up her life would detract from the PR she receives for her lifestyle (forcing newspapers to actually talk about her music for a change?).

A court attendant at Boy George's trial was reportedly underwhelmed, muttering over "all this fuss about a has-been". Boy George was an iconic, flamboyant, colourful star that helped to shape British pop music - but ultimately he is as vulnerable to abuse as anyone. In an industry that does little to protect their assets, every artist is destined to become a "has-been". Lets hope that as the music industry starts to reinvent itself it will make more of an effort to take care of its most precious resource.


Just Say No, Lilly Allen

"The only [newspaper] story is that drugs are bad and they will kill you - I know lots of people that take cocaine three nights a week and get up and go to work every day, no problem. But we never hear that side of the story." - Lilly Allen

No Lilly, it won't kill YOU. But as cocaine is possibly the most harmful drug on the planet when one considers its lifecycle impact - responsible for ruining the lives of many people who are enslaved to its production and distribution by cartels in the South American countries where it is made, just so that your mates in Punk can do a line to help make conversation flow more freely with their bottle of Cristal - maybe you might want to look outside your West London bubble before you enlight us with your insight. 

But then you do have a new album out, don't you?


Deal With God

melnyk rewind
Our version of "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush is out now as part of the Rewind 2 project from BuffetLibre DJs.

Marc from BuffetLibre approached me a few months ago via MySpace, asking if we wanted to contribute a song to this - the second incarnation of their cover song project. It was right at the time I was putting together the live set for the Revolutions album launch party - and I was considering what cover song we could include that Sara could sing. And as I had been listening to a lot of Kate Bush at the time, the choice was clear.

"Running Up That Hill" is one of the most covered songs on the planet (apparently!) - most notoriously via Placebo. But I thought we could put our own mark on the track - with a very sympathetic nod to Kate Bush, of course.  

We also wanted to call it "Deal With God", which was the original title for the track (EMI were afraid the title would equal less airplay, especially in the US). The thought that a label should restrict an artist in this way is, of course, completely against what we believe in. Alas the BuffetLibre boys have left it as "Running Up That Hill" on their site - I can only presume this is in case people were unfamiliar with the original title. 

There are plans in the works to make a video for the track ... more on that later!

Thanks to Marc for the great opportunity and nudge to create the track. And to Popjustice for making it today's SONG OF THE DAY.

Download it - along with the rest of the collection - for FREE at BuffetLibreDJs.net


We're Shopping

Back from a great xmas trip to the US - with some mild jet lag that sees me up at 5am. But more on that later ...

On my marathon journey home I noticed an article in The Times on music sales revenue, which is reportedly down 32% from five years ago. This is mainly attributed to deflation, as bigger retailers (like supermarkets) discount their product. According to the report, the volume of music has actually increased - although album sales are down 5.6%, single sales are up 36% due to the availability of solitary track downloads.

So despite the industry's insistence that piracy is killing music sales, it is clear that people are still buying - they are just being more selective with their choices, possibly by shopping down the long tail.

This comes with the news that hideous UK retailer Zavvi (or what-ever-happened-to-Virgin?) has gone into administration. We'll have to see if they find a buyer and bounce back - but it doesn't bode well for high street music retail. We're left with HMV and a handful of Fopp locations ... 

The question remains - why shop in these stores? With the internet making infinite choice available - in best case scenario, direct from the artist or label, thus bypassing the tedious middle man - why bother with high street stores at all? Bargain bins, limited choice, having to sift through Akon albums - surely we have evolved passed all this?

Image by roughdrft on Flickr.