ANOTHER MOMENT IN TIME & SPACE (11)
I was recently looking at an on-line feature that listed and showed the ten most beautiful beaches in the world worth visiting. Well, they got it completely wrong. I should know; I’ve been there and the ten beaches shown pale in comparison with the beach at Cape Tribulation in northern Queensland, in the Daintree National Park – and where one of the world’s oldest tropical jungle and another of the world’s great natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef come into close association.
I sometimes (make that “often”) wonder about the music industry; it seems not to know what to do next. However, it does seem to come up with some crazy ideas which are surely the outcome of some “executives” sitting round a table either too full of falling down water, or of some alternative substance…and I’m not going to go there!
Recently I was discussing with someone from an independent promotions company representing up and coming bands, some of whose releases are reviewed in the main reviews section of Fireworks and then here at Rocktopia and he was telling me that I would not believe some of the nonsense his clients have been told.
So I asked him for a “for instance” and the following details some of the things that I would not believe. And to be frank, they have left me aghast, bewildered and just a little bit angry!
This is what I was sent that one band had told him:
"We all know there are no such things as once upon a time in this world and above all in the music business where sharks and charlatans gather and seek fresh blood and souls to steal. But even stepping into the ring with eyes widen open and big dreams locked away safe is all too often a zero sum game for a band these days as the industry thrashes about trying to find a new working model."
"Such a band had a vision, raised the funds to record an album with a name producer, one of name and considerable achievement, in order to bring a completed album to the table, thus lessening any investment risk for a label. However the result has been beyond parody, with labels falling over themselves wanting the album, yet attaching such conditions to any contract that walking away is the only option for sake of pocket and sanity and love of music; one label wanted to release the album but wanted "100 % of publishing in view of the risk we are taking", another expected the band to hand over in excess of £4k for a marketing and PR budget; yet another said "love the album but can you re-record it at your expense with our in-house producer"; "we expect you to tour to support the album but we will not offer any tour support but we want a % of merchandise sales"…the litany rolls on as desperation bites like a shark in need of a light snack. "
"As previously observed no band is really looking for once upon a time, but equally something approaching equable business practice in light of what many bands are actually bringing to the table would be a nice change - though as rare as rocking horse poop."
I shudder to think that this could possibly be any of the labels whose releases those of you reading this hold dear, and whose releases you often purchase. I do not know which labels the band is referring to…but I do worry that it might be!
What to make of it? Well as I have said, a variety of reactions fomented in my mind – but overall simply one of incredulity, although from my experience of being associated with the oft fondly remembered Now & Then Records I really should not be surprised at all. It’s all just like a recurring bad dream, with the only difference being that we are talking about reality.
Do I have “the new working model” for the music industry? Sadly not; all I do know is that I have seen far too many decisions that beggar belief… Perhaps I am too washed up in the backwater that is AOR and melodic rock, although my personal taste extends well beyond this narrow strip of the beach, and even encompasses some of the palm trees that provide some shade and respite from the unbelievable amount of crap that crosses my desk and computer as Reviews Editor. I even have to turn away some releases that in another time might have made it for review. There is quite simply far too much stuff out there competing for the ever-reducing disposable income that purchasers of music in our quite small scene have available. I guess the working model must be something like throwing a clod of mud at a wall, and see what sticks…
But of course, there are more and more independent releases too, and the sad tale above will help to explain why this is. What does seem to be a promising route for such music is the Pledge system, but so far this is not something with which I have become involved.
You, dear reader, may have some thoughts about all this – so, do please comment in the Rocktopia Forums.
Sorry, but I continue to lead a very full life (thank goodness) and squeezing in the time to write another Blog continues to be something of a challenge. I do know that the next one may not happen for a while, as I am heading off on some travels during May and June…
So, the line-up for Firefest 2012 has now been announced; and what a cracking weekend it looks like being. I think the guys have really excelled themselves this time and I am amazed by the appearance of SANTERS. I have all four of their extremely desirable albums in the Japanese-released box set from 1998 that I managed to find for a very decent price a few years later. I know this is a band that many will not know. As for me, it is Brighton Rock and XYZ that will provide a musical education, for I have (as I type this) not heard anything by either band.
Looking back at Firefest 2011: well, what an amazing weekend that turned out to be. As some of you will know, I work with a team of super guys (Gary Marshall, Ian Johnson, Steven Reid, David Hill and Nigel Kay -- we are collectively known as "The Jumblies") as part of the festival's front of house crew. This time I personally spent more time behind the scenes watching various processes than I did watching the bands. Indeed, the only full sets I saw were of the bands I was reviewing for Fireworks and Burrn! Magazines (Houston and Vega) and there were a number I didn't see at all. What needs to be remarked is just what a smooth and well-run event it has turned into, and I'm not being sycophantic in remarking thus. I do see lots of praise from many people following the Festival each year, but looking at the interlocking of all the parts that go to make the Festival what it is, I think that the unique camaraderie and sheer hard work and determination of everyone involved ensuring the festival is as great an experience as possible is quite possibly unique. The fact that this is a great social occasion as well as an amazing musical feast is also fundamental to its success. It is growing year by year and the good vibes of the weekend are being spread around the melodic rock community and more and more bands seem to be keen to get involved, I understand.
Rock City may have become the established home of the Festival for now, but I do know that there was very serious consideration of at least one other venue in another city (NOT London!) this time. The early curfew for the shows on each day is a particularly irksome matter and there are other factors about which I am not going to write here that are not ideal, and which could be positively addressed by staging the Festival elsewhere. And yet, for every gain, there would inevitably be losses, not least because of the links built up over the past few years in Nottingham and of the understanding of how the Rock City venue works and of using it to our advantage in that respect.
Returning to last year's Festival, I do want to commend all the wonderful "AORsters" who attended this year's festival.
I don't know the guy's name but he arrived at the entrance to Rock City on the Friday evening having missed Serpentine, Houston and Terry Brock. He demanded a refund because he had been scouring Nottingham Trent University for the venue at which the show was being held there...
I did notice that Rock City was very full on the Friday night...but I guess there's always one who lives their life in a complete haze! What really gets me in Society these days is the inability of some people to accept their culpability for a particular situation. It always has to be someone else's fault!
There, I do occasionally have a rant!
One of the things I really enjoy is meeting up with friends and acquaintances, amongst whom are Sue and Marty Moffatt. Marty is, as many of you will know, a really fabulous photographer and he and Sue Ashcroft both produce official shots of the entire show. Sue Moffatt stations herself at the reception desk for much of the weekend, and as such has to be counted as an honorary Jumbly! As anyone who has ever shared her company will know, she has a wicked sense of humour and time spent in her vicinity quickly passes!
It is also great meeting the musicians from the melodic rock scene and there are two from Firefest 2011 I would particularly like to mention here: Alessandro del Vecchio and Issa. I have long been an admirer of Ale's work -- both as a musician, a producer, a composer and (I think this is lesser known) a vocal coach. A brief conversation at Firefest has been followed by numerous e-mails between us and a glimpse into his very busy schedule. He has several projects on the go at the moment and I will be talking with him about these and so much more for a forthcoming feature in Fireworks.
Issa always seemed to be somewhere near the Firefest reception desk in the foyer of Rock City: usually (but not always) in the company of her husband James Martin (Vega). She really is a very lovely person, and a complete ladette!! I had expected to see her name in the line-up for 2012, given that she had so thoroughly soaked up the atmosphere (along with a few cans) but I guess it's more likely for 2013 especially if Vega put in a return appearance then.
As I put the finishing touches to this edition of 'Another Moment...' I am sat at the computer with more than a modicum of frustration. I was due to be attending tonight's gig at the Classic Rock Society with Bruce, but in a winter that has (here in Bury) been remarkably free of snow, just after 1100 this morning the predicted heavy snow began. And seven hours later it is still bucketing down. As the journey from here to Rotherham necessitates crossing over the Pennines, we decided that it might not be a sensible idea to venture out. I dare it to snow in four weeks time when I am next due at the CRS (for the BOTYS); on that occasion I will be going in the company of my pal Mark Ryan. He has a 4WD vehicle...now there's an idea for when Bruce decides to replace his rear-wheel drive Lexus that seems to slide all over the place as soon as the words "snow" and "ice" are uttered!
Appearing at the CRS tonight is the wonderful British prog band CREDO. Their 2011 album 'Against Reason' topped my personal best of the year list. As only the first five appear in forthcoming (and landmark) issue 50 of Fireworks, here is the full Top 10:
1. CREDO -- Against Reason
2. SHY -- Shy
3. SUBSIGNAL -- Touchstones
4. SEAN FILKINS -- War & Peace And Other Short Stories
5. NIGHTWISH -- Imaginaerum
6. THE MAGNIFICENT -- The Magnificent
7. TOBY HITCHCOCK -- Mercury's Down
8. MECCA -- Undeniable
9. COSMOGRAPH -- When Age Has Done Its Duty
10. ROB MORATTI -- Victory
Also in contention (in alphabetical order) were...
AMARANTHE -- Amaranthe
AMORPHIS -- The Beginning Of Times
EDEN'S CURSE -- Trinity
LIONVILLE -- Lionville
MAGIC PIE -- The Suffering Joy
MAGNUM -- The Visitation
MANNING -- Margaret's Children
PRESTO BALLET -- Invisible Places
TEN -- Stormwarning
WORK OF ART -- In Progress
That's it for this time. I keep promising that the next one will not be such a long time a coming! We'll see...
The delay in appearance of this instalment of my Blog is entirely due to my being a numpty when I originally tried to post it onto the Rocktopia site a few weeks ago. I obviously didn’t do it right, as everything duly disappeared – most of you will have had something similar happen to you in the computer age and it is a major leaning experience at the time, but moreover quite dispiriting.
Another week, another album pick, so this week I go for one of the all time classic James Gaden shots in the dark...
I am sorry that it's been a while. 2010 was a peculiar year for me, as some of you who are close friends will know. Well, all that is now hopefully behind me, because as of midnight I am now a retired man!
Hopefully, I will now appear here regularly, and if some of you find my ramblings of any sort of interest, please let me know. Alternatively, if any of you would prefer me to keep my thoughts to myself, well I will not be offended if you say so (but nor will it make any difference!!)
I had been planning to write about CD supply problems - which all started with issues that I had with some orders placed with Play.com. However, I think I would need to be a fully fledged investigative journalist to concisely set down for you to read all that I have discovered. All I will say is that it is a minefield, and some surprising details have been revealed. And more continue to be uncovered, so it is as yet and incomplete story!
So, I am going to start 2011 by giving you my overview of 2010. This is in the form of a series of Top 10 lists, the final one being my top albums of the year. You will see that when you only get my top 5 in Fireworks 44 that there is one helluva lot of backup thought that has gone into this (and the same will apply to my fellow Fireworks writers too, I guess!)
So, here goes:
(a) Frontiers releases: