How to Survive 2017

8 January 2017

Let’s take stock, shall we? By all accounts, the world has gone crazy. Not as bad as when it’s been really bad, but, you know, bad. Facts are dead. It is entirely possible that some people genuinely think up is actually down, and to say anything different is unpatriotic. In an effort to prove that politics is just as cyclical as fashion, by different turns we seem to be simultaneously reviving the Nazis and the Cold War. We are metaphorically wearing a Hugo Boss suit with leg warmers, and look just as stupid.

Let’s put all that to one side though....

Storytelling

23 November 2016

I was talking recently with someone I know who works at a music media company. I say “media company” both to be purposefully vague but also because I struggle to think of a better term that encompasses the merging worlds of distribution, retail and promotion.

Day in, day out, they get pitched music.

They told me that the latest thing that record labels are talking about is “storytelling”.

This makes a lot of sense, because labels have always been natural storytellers. The original story was that if you wanted to get your music into shops, into the hands of the public, you had...

High Wire

4 September 2016

Releasing music is getting complicated, isn’t it? Once, you’d simply use huge factories dotted around the world to etch your record onto a small plastic disc, then use fleets of planes, trains and automobiles to get them into thousands of stores dotted around high streets hither and thither.

Now you just release it digitally with one retailer and go to number one in multiple markets with no traditional promotion. And it’s all just so complicated.

Now obviously, obviously, the Frank Ocean’s of this world aren’t and can’t be a blueprint for everyone else, for exactly the same reason that Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want scheme...

Bubble

4 July 2016

I have two main ways of getting to work. One way – my normal way – involves a slightly soulless walk, slightly mediocre coffee, and a slightly less crowded tube train at the end of it. The other way features rammed carriages but significantly better flat whites.

I was in the later establishment just over a week ago. It was a Friday. One of the more characterful features of the place is that it typically plays loud, high BPM music more frequently found in places like, I don’t know, Fabric I guess? I don’t really go to clubs any more,...

You Used To Call Me On My Cellphone

2 May 2016

My first MP3 player was this terrible, brick-like contraption made by Nokia. I couldn’t afford a regular player, so to take part in the nascent digital music revolution I was forced to get something on a phone contract that also happened to play MP3s. I paid a big price, not just in terms of the student-loan depleting monthly payments, as the phone I got was designed at the peak of Nokia’s “creative” phase, where they rigorously tested all the different possible permutations of what a phone should look like. For better and, far more frequently, for worse.

I can picture the...

I Want My MTV

31 January 2016

You’ve watched Making A Murderer, haven’t you? And of course when I say watched I really mean binged, episode after episode flickering past in a haze of instant entertainment addiction. If you haven’t watched that show, you will almost certainly be familiar with the experience.

Making A Murderer – and its widespread reception – indicates we have hit a tipping point where streaming, subscription-based video is truly mainstream. Not that it hasn’t been popular previously – the likes of House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black all attest to that – but it is now accepted – the...

Music in 2030

16 December 2015

Flying cars, hoverboards, and self-drying jackets — predicting the future is hard.

However, if we’re just to focus on music right now, it’s a fascinating time. Certain things are falling into place, which means that the path is maybe—just maybe—becoming clearer for the minute. At least, that is, in terms of how technology is influencing the way people listen to music.

We are obviously at a point now where legal, on-demand access to almost all music is a reality—whether through streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, or YouTube (which we might want to count as a streaming service as...

What We Can Learn

22 November 2015

It’s about 7pm on a dark November Friday. The weather has turned from unseasonably warm to appropriately bitter. That hasn’t stopped the shoppers flocking to one of the capitals premiere shopping destinations, however. They mill around, bags in tow, flicking Christmas signs lighting up their work-weary faces.

In HMV there is a queue at the checkout. I am one of five; the three people ahead are all clutching CDs marked 25. So is the man behind me. So am I.

So much has already been written about the new Adele record, and far more will be because it is fascinating. It’s...

Drive

18 October 2015

If you work in the UK music industry, 2015 is probably proving to be quite a confusing year. Several elements that have been brewing for a while have now all snapped into relevance, turning everything upside down in the process.

For example, exactly how should you release a single now?

(No, go on – I’d like an actual answer if you’ve got one.)

Now, streams being added to the single chart happened last year, but it took a good 6 months for everyone to start paying attention, and then another 6 months for the majors to stick their flag firmly in the ground...

Freaks and Weirdos

9 August 2015

When I was at school you could roughly divide people into three different camps: firstly, most obviously, you had the cool kids. If, in another life, I had gone to class in Northern California I guess I would have called them jocks. You know the type.

At the other end of the spectrum – and classroom, frequently – you had the geeks. My school was a grammar school – you had to pass an entrance exam to get in. We had a lot of geeks.

In between is the interesting bit. These are the people that didn’t fit. Not athletic enough, or...

Amateur Hour

5 July 2015

The other week I had lunch with a friend – the sort of lazy, Saturday-with-no-real-plans kind of lunch where you’re there so long one meal time merges into the next – and during our tenure a friend of his joined us. Let’s call this friend “Jack”. Jack identifies himself as a Youtuber.

For those of you who haven’t heard this modern Internet colloquialism, in essence a Youtuber is simply someone that runs a successful YouTube channel. They typically follow the form of a lone, bubbly presenter doing bits to camera about, well, anything really – from fashion to beauty to games...

Do you really mean it?

7 June 2015

Frank Carter stands on the bar at the back of the room. With one hand he steadies himself against the low roof, with the other he clutches the microphone, the wire winding its way over the top of the audience, back to the stage. The atmosphere is akin to what would happen if you shut the door to your kitchen and left a pan of salty water to boil until it burnt.

“I had a really hard year” he says.

“Within the space of about a month, both me and my girlfriend lost our jobs. Then we found out we were expecting...

Hype Cycles

26 April 2015

“If you start to feel sick just take it off and you’ll be fine in a minute.”

These words – uttered by the person operating a computer, oversized goggles and corresponding tangle of wires – are just one of the many reasons why the latest wave of virtual reality is, with depressing inevitability, destined for failure.

If you haven’t used an Oculus Rift, or one of its many similar competitors , it’s a surprisingly unimpressive experience for something with so much hype. The screen is quite low resolution – you can easily see the pixels – and the experience is never that...

Quick! Let's release a record!

21 March 2015

I am sitting in a small cafe in southern Alabama. The south’s reputation for friendliness is proving well founded, and quickly the barista has coaxed a significant amount of my life story out of me; probably more then I’ve told several people I would consider friends back in London. It’s quite disarming. It turns out that this place actually used to be a record store – there are gig posters littering the wood panel walls – but slowly more people started buying coffee and less people were buying records.

I’m sure this story had happened in more then a few places.

I...

Don't try this in Los Angeles

1 February 2015

It’s well known that LA is a car town, but it doesn’t really hit you quite what that means until you get there. To someone from Europe well versed in how cities can sprawl – or not – you think “sure, everyone drives in LA, I get it”. But you really don’t. It’s woven so deep into the very fibre of the place’s being, into its soul, that it creeps into everything and everyone.

When I first go to a city I normally try and walk to as many places as I can to try and figure out what makes this...