Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Sunday, July 12, 2020
|Del Amitri, Florida, August 1986|
The music ‘industry’ as we’ve known it is, and has been for a long time, a stuttering, crumbling, lumbering behemoth, a decaying piece of machinery monetising technical processes established at the start of the 20th century and earlier: live performance, songs printed and sold as sheet music, recorded discs, radio. Colossal, sometimes lunatic amounts of cash have been made by those involved at every level and in every aspect. And been lost. Or stolen.
Appalling behaviour has been tolerated and encouraged, because the sums being earned were so vast, often by people who, like footballers, combined wondrous artistry with the brains, morals and maturity of cockroaches. A recent read of Patti Boyd’s deeply upsetting autobiography reveals an Eric Clapton who would jealously store away cheques “to stop the bank from getting them”. If only that was the worst or stupidest or most downright evil thing he did while one of the world’s biggest, richest, most addicted rock stars.
The past few years have seen the music industry flailing hopelessly against technology. Artists, apart from the few heritage and superstar acts still bitcoining it in, have railed and still do against the streaming services. Buy our vinyl, they plead, like desperate hucksters crouched in the street trying to sell CB radios to smartphone users, Fray Bentos pies to the queue at Paesano. Look, it’s a nice colour! I have signed it in felt tip! I have children and a Nissan Leaf to support! It’s in a COLOUR SLEEVE!
Listen, vinyl is shit. It sounds terrible, deteriorates with every needle-gouging spin (not that anyone ever really plays these modern12-inches) and is unutterably and unsustainably filthy to produce. It’s a souvenir, a memento, an icon, a memory, an artefact, and yes, objects which evoke such emotions are important. But there are better, cleaner ways to support and memorialize your band, to be a fan. Surely.
And even as we speak, on the island of Eigg, Johnny Lynch and his pals at Lost Map Records are probably working on it, and making it out of sustainable sheeps wool, deer horn and bits of old fishing boat.
The plague has shut down venues and killed the cattlemarket events which have become - oh yes - the cash cows of the music industry. The reluctance to cancel gigs, tours and festivals, and the fear and anger of those forced to do so, was indicative: Make no mistake, this is the end for many of the big corporate horrorshow promoters and, alas, many of the freelances who depend on the trickledown from their events. Refunds for cancelled gigs are slow or non-existent for a very good reason, the same reason airlines aren’t handing out the money for cancelled flights: If they did so, all at once, they’d go bust instantly.
As it is Live Nation’s (and parent Ticketmaster’s) share price crash saw the companies write off a colossal amount of their value, and no return to proper touring and major, fully attended gigs is predicted until July 2021. It could mean the end for such corporate monstrosities or, as some financial analysts are predicting, an opportunity for them to retrench, reinvent and bounce back. Thinner, meaner, tougher, nastier. Rock’n’ roll. The hedge funds are already circling.
One forthright friend, a music professional of decades standing has an apocalyptic vision of the immediate future:
“Anyone who thinks there’ll be large scale touring this year (or even next year) is delusional. It can’t happen until there’s a vaccine. Same goes for festivals. All the big commercially operated venues will go bust, if they haven’t already, and even if they don’t, there won’t be anyone to staff them. All we’ll be left with are council run venues, because that’s where all the support money will go. Those with connections to Government will hoover up all the available money and use it line their own filthy pockets and produce nothing of value, so it’ll be business as usual. Freelancers won’t get a penny, so they will be gone, so even if touring does start up, there’ll be nobody to crew it. And there won’t be any service companies left to provide sound, lights, video, buses, trucking, catering etc. They’re going bust at an alarming rate right now. PA equipment suppliers are flogging gear as fast they can, and a lot is going abroad due to the weak Pound. If and when things restart, there will be a major shortage of equipment. Large scale touring is dead in the water and will be for a long time. The biggest players were in serious difficulty before all this happened.”
And yet and yet….
“I’ve actually got quite a positive view of the future for the music industry. I’m predicting a proper grass roots resurgence in small venues once it’s safe to do so.
I believe there will be a huge opportunity to reinvent the music industry when the dust settles, and it won’t be the old dinosaurs that currently have a stranglehold on it doing the reinventing, so there’s hope yet.”
The announcement of £2.2 million in Holyrood money to support “Grassroots Music Venues” in Scotland (now being acronymed as GMVs, which is a very bad sign) until October may provide a lifeline for the 74 members in Scotland of the Music Venue Trust (MVT? Oh, please...). Equally divided, that’s what? About £30K each? The hows and the whys and the who gets what (decided by whom?) will be illuminating. It won’t save anyone long term unless they move and change fast.
Agile companies big and small, those with enough financial backing to keep going, are moving into streaming and ‘hybrid’ gigs (high-price, socially distanced live premium audience plus paid-for streaming). At least seven or eight of the big production companies now have fully equipped sound stages in the UK specifically for streaming, but monetising the online aspect is, as ever, a problem. The Plague phenomenon of Facebook Live and Zoom gigs with Paypal.me, Kofi, Patreon and other embarrassing begging bowl or online busking options in place was interesting, but an emergency measure trading on sympathy. To make that work long term, you need to offer something else.
Stuff. Lots of stuff. Good stuff. Quality. People want things. To express support, belonging, love.Swag. T-shirts, postcards, handwritten lyrics, backyard personal gigs, and even the horrific offerings on the Cameo site, where some big names will do you a phone message or a personal greeting for anything up to several hundred quid. Mike Scott from the Waterboys was one early adopter there. And may God have mercy on his soul.
Here’s a thing: Musicians are not going to stop making music because they’re not getting paid or paid enough for it. Those who don’t do it for love are not worth bothering about anyway, so their loss won’t be mourned by those who love music and want to support the musicians who make it.
What will or should those transactions be?
Streaming is like radio, and no musician makes a living wage from MCPS payments, or very few. Forget all this moaning about Spotify and (slightly more lucrative) Tidal. It’s advertising. If you’re good, I’ll want to own something you've made. Make me an offer, Show me some of your good stuff, your knitwear, your art, your shirts, your dishtowels. Come to my garden and do a gig. You can stay in that specially cleaned caravan. We’ll feed you through the catflap. Show us your art.
Forget the mansion in Kent, the Caribbean yacht, the no-black-Smarties rider. The 360 deal, the free Adidas, sync, the dreams of being in Spinal Tap, the VIP lounge, the reunion tour to top up the pension fund. It’s over. You’re entitled to nothing.
But you’re an artist. Use your imagination. Be inspired. Inspire me.
Maybe you’re worth some of the cash I don’t actually have at the moment. Maybe not. Prove it.
Copyright Tom Morton, 2020. No reproduction without written permission. Sharing on Facebook and Twitter fine.
Thursday, July 09, 2020
I don't want to drink in a pub full of plague
Have dinner half price in a shed
I've got my Brewdog subscription
I'll eat Kentucky Fried in bed
I don't want to stand in some sweaty club
Nursing Tennents in a plastic glass
When I can watch Glastonbury on TV
For as long as I need it to last
I'm going to stay at home I have no doubt
It's nice in here, there's no need to go out
I've got Uber Eats and Deliveroo
And I don't have to talk to the likes of you
I like being alone
I'm just going to stay at home
Some old singer said he and the band
Just want to have a little fun
They recorded an album in lockdown
They need to top up their pension funds
And all of those actors with their acting stuff
Darlings, theatre's had its day
I need fast forward and I need live pause
If I'm going to watch a play
I'm sorry for those backstage dealers
With their Es and hash and speed
But I have my sourdough starter
And it's all I'll ever need
I won't commute to an office
I don't care what anybody thinks
Won't stand for hours on a train that smells
Of Costa, sweat and Lynx
I can run this helpline from bed
Telling people how to use 5G
And if idiots want to keep blowing up masts
Well that's all the more work for me
Copyright Tom Morton 2020.
Saturday, July 04, 2020
Thursday, July 02, 2020
Sunday, June 28, 2020
I liked the Oscar Marzaroli photographs in her room
That I saw when we first had that meeting on Zoom
There was Rankin, McDermid and Banks on her shelves
Though oddly, a few Barbara Cartlands as well
It seemed almost a meeting of minds
I sent her a message online
And after some Facetime and Whatsapping we both agreed
That it might be time for us
safely distanced to meet
She said there is just one thing I have to ask
I never go out without wearing a mask
Rubber gloves and usually a hat
Are you comfortable with that?
I said I will see you in Kelvingrove Park
By the statue of Thomas Carlyle
I model my fashion on the late Alistair Gray
And I dress for both safety and style
And I am quite sure that you'll understand
If I make no attempt to to reach out for your hand
I promise you that I will stay
Six feet away
I stood there for hours but she never arrived
She messaged me finally and fulsomely apologised
She said our relationship had better stay
On a digital platform, it was better that way
And to an extent I agreed
And so we never wandered through Kelvingrove
At the Stewart memorial fountain
We never drove to Loch Lomond
Or gazed at the hills and the mountains
When lockdown was eased I saw her I think
In the Oran Mor beer garden having a drink
Really there was nothing to say
I stayed six metres away
Sunday, June 07, 2020
From the Holy Modal Rounders to Little Feat isn't that circuitous a route...
Johnny and Mary -Robert Palmer
Rock'n'Roll Disgrace - Sweet
Take Me To the River - Syl Johnson
Suddenly - Solomon Burke
You have to be Chased- Rupert Hine
Happiness - Blue Nile
Fine Lines - John Martyn
Davie's Delightful Asides:
Satisfaction- Otis Redding
Tumbling Dice - Linda Ronstadt
Sympathy for the Devil - Bryan Ferry
Elvis Presley Blues - Gillian Welch
The Older I Get - Primevals
You're gonna Miss Me - Thirteenth Floor Elevators
Psycho - Sonics
Manic Monday - Kate Rusby
Drew's Dodgy Doodles
Knockando - Michael Hurley
Euphoria - Holy Modal Rounders
The Belle of Avenue A - The Fugs
Going Down - Freddie King
Going Down Slow - Long John Baldry
Mercenary Territory - Little Feat
These Dreams of You - Van Morrison
(I don't Want To) Hang Up My Rock'n'Roll Shoes - The Band
Record Player - Teddy Thomson
Buckfast - Nadine Shah
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness - Alabama Three
Time to Pretend - MGMT
When You're Falling - Afro Celt Sound System
Wednesday, June 03, 2020
I saw her in the Tesco queue she said don't try to kiss me
I'd love to talk to you and I know that you've missed me
But this is much bigger than us, think of the community
I don't believe all of this bullshit about herd immunity
And I didn't get a chance to ask
As she adjusted her designer mask
Which she wore with insouciant style
Who it was she'd been holding hands with
By the alcohol aisle
Her trolley was heavily loaded and tricky to steer
It was full of Moet et Chandon and Mexican beer
A bottle of Grey Goose vodka, some Isle of Harris gin
I didn't like the look of the relationship she'd found herself in
I'd believed her when she would say
How she loved single malts and craft IPA
But clearly I had been in denial
And the truth had been revealed during lockdown in the alcohol aisle
I saw them in the car park heading for a Toyota hybrid
And I had to admit, he looked much better than I did
He had the aura of a personal trainer or a tennis coach
I was filled with inferiority and self reproach
But I knew I'd be having more fun
With my Talisker, my Innes and Gunn
My resemblance to Bobby Carlyle
I went back in to buy some Buckfast
In the alcohol aisle...
Monday, May 25, 2020
A sportless nerd with no social skills, bad clothes, poor taste in music. A narrow, unshared range of interests which he gradually, over university and beyond, developed both an encyclopaedic knowledge of and brutal passion for. Pilloried and bullied by the cool kids. Privileged, unpopular family. Odd accent he veered between defiantly maintaining and desperately gentrifying. A carapace of contempt growing as his highly focussed intelligence was brought to bear on issues which suddenly, in the socially mediated age, became politically crucial.
Not so much tough as beyond caring: Here I am. This is my bus. Get on board, pay the fare or get out of my way. And once you're on, you obey my rules. Listen to my choice of Abba tunes. These are my skills. This is my price.
Do you know what? I bet he's a really kind dad. A loving husband. And I bet he panicked, completely, when Mary Wakefield phoned to to tell him she thought she had the virus.
And I bet they had no friends in London they could ask for help.
Now, well, he has the Tory party in the palm of his hand. They are a useless conglomerate of the inept, the corrupt, the weak and the slavishly compromised. He's not that clever, but he's committed. He's certain. He's in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and he is Hubertus Bigend. And his agenda fits with the bad billionaires, though he thinks he's way above and beyond these grasping cretins. Money doesn't interest him. It's all about being right. It's all about vengeance. There's a kind of febrile purity there.
The London media are hopeless. They have nothing but ambition to fuel them, nothing but a really horrible vanity. Even those without need of his patronage, who clearly dislike him, fire their weapons like empty tins of Harp against a a Saracen armoured car (copyright Lionel Shriver, sorry. Currently reading the marvellous Ordinary Decent Criminals).
His weakness? Love for family. It could have undone someone with less of a brass neck, more sensitivity to the opinions of others. But not now. Not with this bunch of buffoons in Government. Dominic Cummings is their only hope. And what they don't realise is that he has as much hatred for them as he does the press. You can see it in every choice of Decathlon trackie bottoms, every used Discovery Sport.
Every trip to Durham.
Saturday, May 23, 2020
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Copyright Tom Morton 2020