Review – Aussie BBQ @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen

I recently helped Sounds Australia put on this event. It was a massive success. The bands were on point, the sausages were sizzling and the beer was warm. A perfect Sunday in London.

Friday on my Mind

After appearances at Liverpool’s Sound City and at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival, Sounds Australia brought their Aussie BBQ showcase to London on Sunday.

Held across two stages at the reputable Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen venue, the Aussie BBQ 2014 played host to an incredible 21 acts over an amazing – albeit somewhat exhausting – 11 hours.

The day was kicked off in fine style by double drum-kitted Melbourne rockers Money For Rope, before the captivating Kate Miller-Heidke took to the stage. On the back of a strong and distinguished career back home, Miller-Heidke has come to the UK to promote her first locally released single, ‘Yours Was the Body,’ and it shouldn’t take her long to conquer the British public of she continues to produce spellbinding performances like Sunday’s.

Kate Miller Heidke. Photo by Carl Pires Kate Miller Heidke. Photo by Carl Pires

Another highlight from the afternoon shift came in the form of Brisbane five-piece The John Steel Singers, whose half…

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Beats to be taken over by Apple.

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Congratulations to Dr. Dre who might be on his way to becoming the first rapper/ billionaire ever. I bet he didn’t think of that when he was rapping about bitches not being shit.

Commiserations go out to Apple on potentially having just acquired an absolutely shit house product.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect what Beats do – manufacture a bass heavy, ugly, flimsy piece of equipment that is endorsed by one of the most popular rappers of all time. Oh and of course they recently launched a streaming service to rival Spotify.

I do wonder however, whether Steve Jobs would be rolling around in his grave at this new acquisition. In my opinion Beats stands for everything that Apple is not.

What scares me is the power Apple now has with the streaming service. If we think of the industry in waves, the mp3 wave that took out CD’s was completely dominated when Jobs launched I tunes. I wonder if the guys in silicon valley have something up their sleeve and are getting ready to release some sort of new streaming hardware that will blow Spotify away and deem I tunes useless.

While we wait for that, I’m going to put on my AIAIAI TMA1’s and listen to The Chronic.

The Aussie BBQ 2014 – STREWTH.

1.

strewth

An Australian, or “Aussie”, exclaimation, similar to the somewhat more popular “Crikey!”
Strewth, that was a hard day, toss me a Fosters mate!

Every year a number of ‘activations’ occur for the company Sounds Australia.

Sounds Australia is Australia’s music market development initiative, established to provide a cohesive and strategic platform to assist the Australian music industry access domestic and international business opportunities.

This Sunday 11th May is the Aussie BBQ London 2014. Some of my favourite Australian bands are playing including (but definitely not limited to…) DUNE RATS, Money for Rope, Jeremy Neale and The John Steel Singers.

The first thing that comes to mind when people think of Australia is how ridiculously far away it is. I speak from first hand experience when I say that bands in Australia also feel the same way. It is a dream to play at festivals like Primavera Sound and  Glastonbury (Stonefield – one of the bands at this years BBQ has done just that) or even smaller festivals like The Great Escape.  That dream often seems impossible, as building a fan base and getting to Europe seems geographically unrealistic.

It is thanks to companies like Sounds Australia that help that dream become reality. The whole process seems extremely natural. The bands are some of the best the country has to offer and the venue has a great reputation in London.

Make sure you get to The Hoxton Bar and Kitchen this weekend for one hell of a Sunday Session. Get there early for a free Sausage Sizzle (a sausage in a piece of bread…) also known as the perfect hangover cure.

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is Australia’s music market development initiative, established to provide a cohesive and strategic platform to assist the Australian music industry access domestic and international business opportunities. – See more at: http://www.soundsaustralia.com.au/#sthash.dBMM1DPV.dpuf
is Australia’s music market development initiative, established to provide a cohesive and strategic platform to assist the Australian music industry access domestic and international business opportunities. – See more at: http://www.soundsaustralia.com.au/#sthash.dBMM1DPV.dpuf

is Australia’s music market development initiative, established to provide a cohesive and strategic platform to assist the Australian music industry access domestic and international business opportunities. – See more at: http://www.soundsaustralia.com.au/#sthash.dBMM1DPV.dpuf
is Australia’s music market development initiative, established to provide a cohesive and strategic platform to assist the Australian music industry access domestic and international business opportunities. – See more at: http://www.soundsaustralia.com.au/#sthash.dBMM1DPV.dpuf

The Fratellis back on the road

In 2006, amongst the indie pop bands that were launching out of the UK, Scottish band The Fratellis managed to cause more of a stir than most.

The song that aided with this is one that holds a fond memory to many, it is called ‘Chelsea Dagger.’ Memories of this song might be a drunken haze, clinging arm in arm at the local pub or from when your sporting team scored that winning goal to get them into the final.

I recently interviewed the band as they made their way back to our shores for the first time in six years. Here is what Jon Fratelli, the lead singer had to say –

Carl: The music industry is a different place to when you first released Costello Music, your debut album. The digital age is in full force and Indie bands are much fewer. It would appear we are happier to lean our craft on a computer rather than an acoustic instrument. So how did the band have to adjust after coming out of the five year hiatus?

Jon: It’s easy when you don’t pay any attention, music’s only important if it’s important to you, worrying about the industry side of it doesn’t seem that important really.

C: How does it feel to be back together touring again and what has changed since you last came down under?

J: Well my hair is shorter, Mince has tattooed his head and Baz has one foot bigger than the other, also we’re far better to see live these days I reckon.

C: I know you mentioned in an interview at the end of last year that Chelsea Dagger is not necessarily one of your favourite songs. To date, what is the song you are most proud of?

J: I haven’t written it yet…that way I have a reason to get up in the morning….

C: At the end of last year, you said – “There’s nothing wrong with choruses. Choruses are not to be underestimated.” So what’s your favourite chorus from any song and why?

J: I said that? It might be true….there’s too many to mention but right here right now “She loves you yeah yeah yeah” springs to mind

C: You’re coming back to Australia after six years, what are some of your best memories from last time you were here, and what will you make sure you do again?

J: Well the first time we came over I saw some Crocodiles which was something I had on my list for a long time. The last time we were in Australia however we were in the huff with each other and didn’t play too well so we have some making up to do.

The Fratellis released their third studio album ‘We Need Medicine’ last October.

This is still my favourite song by the band to date.

Arkon Fly

In August last year, the internet got a little funkier with the release of a killer song called “Through the Fire”. It came from a group called  Arkon Fly. Their name and location were the only two pieces of information available about them on the internet. Try not to move your head as you listen to this track and read the rest of this dope blog.

In October, they released another equally as catchy song called Back Seat and managed to get played on BBC Radio 1. Then in February this year they tweeted –

 

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Suddenly their music was no where to be found on the internet. That was until Arkon Fly announced they had just signed to the XL Recordings subsidiary ‘Locked on Records’ which focuses predominantly on UK Garage and Grime.

This type of artist development and choices to remove all songs from the internet really interests me. I’d love to be in the room when the group found out the awesome news about Locked On.

Look out for the single ‘Back Seat’ that they will hopefully release soon.

When I Lost a Debate About Spotify.

Is Spotify Killing the Music Industry?

I recently took part in a class debate where our team was arguing that ‘Yes’ Spotify is killing the music industry.

With a class of music lovers, who predominantly use Spotify to listen to music everyday, it was always going to be an up hill battle trying to convince them.

Our team of three, brainstormed many different arguments but couldn’t find any validity in that the decline in the music industry is solely due to Spotify, as it takes up such a small market share. Instead, we decided to use our passion, what I like to call the Thom York approach and go for the emotional tact. The three of us do not use Spotify and are quite passionate that it is the devil. Trying to articulate that proved pretty hard.

Below is my section of the speech, it gets quite convoluted at times, I hope however, that the audience were entertained and could see some valid points in my argument:

Today, we are not going to use the aid of a slide presentation to tell you why Spotify is killing the music industry. As a class of music aficionados, passionate, next generation leaders, we hope to prove why Spotify is killing the music industry  – creatively, through the choice paralysis and finally the hit song complex.

Here we have a brothel more commonly referred to as the music industry. The major labels are the pimps and the whores are the artists. You can buy that more desired worker, but for a larger price. Or you could just pay for that indie band who you wouldn’t brag to your mates about.

In comes spotify, the STD known as chlamydia that is slowly infecting the music industry. And no, I’m not talking from personal experience.

Amanda Palmer, our favourite TED talker said not to ask an artist about Spotify. “He’ll go on about the glory days of vinyl and recording to tape”…Spotify started in 2008 as a band aid solution to illegal downloading and has killed the value of songs and albums that I Tunes were offering. Just like video killed the radio star, Cd’s killed the vinyl star, Spotify is killing the music industry. Palmer says not to ask the artist but without the artist and their creativity, where would the industry be?

We define the music industry as a creative industry that over the last ten years has seen a detrimental downturn.  The industry is not measured in sales, it’s measured by creativity. We saw at MIDEM music conference, the need for innovation and new business models but the underlying theme of the festival was nostalgia. These big dogs of the music industry were crying out for a need to go back to the model of the 80’s. But why did it ever stop? It is the the global mega stars, often with one hit wonders, that Spotify holds (excuse the pun) – major  biases for that are killing the industry.

Yesterday, Kid Cudi released his 4th studio album. Blogs across the internet cleverly marketed it with a “download here”  button tat automatically directed the user to I Tunes. On I Tunes, Cudi sold it for $10 as a buy album only. Where we were once saving our pocket money for that new parental advisory album our parents didn’t want us to buy, we now pay the same amount to play millions of albums once, make a quick assessment of whether there’s a ‘Gangnam’ hit on it or not, then dispose of it. It is in this quick disposal of music the creative side of the industry is being killed.

Needless to say, we were crushed in the debate, the opposing team spoke well and used many figures proving that Spotify are currently doing some good in terms of sales for the music industry.

We concluded the debate with:

The record industry has been a cold twitching corpse for a long time now, Spotify has just given them a chance to choose their coffin.

I enjoyed the way the results were announced by our teacher over Twitter and the conversation that ensued:

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Nautical Themed Pashmina Afghan

My MIDEM afterthoughts may be explained if you imagine that the music industry were represented by the boats in the picture below.

MIDEM BOATS

Those 20 million Euro yachts on the right represent the ‘big dogs’ of the major labels who spent their time on panels talking about the need to go back to ‘traditional ways’ of A&R but had no answer as to why that traditional model ever stopped. ‘What’s wrong with a good old fashioned sail boat?’

To the left are the modest and sturdy sail boats standing independent to those to the right. They set the trend for the current music industry and have always done so. There are only two boats, much fewer than those to the right but the grandeur is still there.

Take Lyor Cohen’s new venture 300 for example. Here we have a boat that wouldn’t be seen dead in Cannes as it stays harbored in Monaco. Lyor is a powerhouse but is trying to invest in a new sail boat. His talk at MIDEM ended with Tom Silverman from the New Music Seminar welcoming Lyor into the Independent sector, stating “you’re going to find like it’s much more like the 80′s again.” This boat called 300 is a label that doesn’t need a welcome party, Google has that covered.

On the yachts, you can hardly move without being trodden on by $845 boat shoes. Representatives of various streaming services that marginally differ from one another converse in shouting matches, trying to get the attention of four men sat in the corner eating caviar and drinking don. Over the noise however, two words keep coming through, they are ‘digital’ and ‘streaming’.

I spent a large proportion of my MIDEM with the Sail Boat that is Sounds Australia. It was nice being around down to earth music lovers. People who are in the industry for the right reasons, who are working for a brand that holds some moral integrity and is taking the music industry to a better place. An interesting statement that The Mae Trio posed during their performance at the Aussie Barbecue showcase was “considering this is a music conference, where is all the music?!”

I didn’t go into MIDEM expecting a SXSW atmosphere. At the same time I didn’t expect the focal point of the festival to be the Superbowl. I spent the night of the Superbowl party much like all of the other people in the room, not actually paying attention. I did tune in for the halftime show and that’s when I realised that the Industry is a hybrid of the two boats above. Here we have the branding, the advertisements, the fans but also Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers who went back to basics and put on a kick ass show.

They say the happiest two days in a mans life are : the day he buys a boat, and the day he sells it.

MIDEM demonstrated what I love and hate about the current state of the industry. The music industry isn’t for sail. (pun intended)

Here’s a nice picture with Ben, the conference manager of MIDEM.

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2014. Brands. Adidas. Pharrell. Red Bull. Boiler Room. Spotify.

Looking ahead from the “Year in Review” series, I’d like to make a couple of predictions about next year and the music industry.

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Adidas will continue to emerge as a real fashion brand in the music industry. They will boost sponsorship of events but maintain an air of ‘cool.’ I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Adidas Festival or an exclusive sporting and music show. Hats off (obviously Adidas ones) to whoever is currently doing the marketing over there.

pharrell-signs-to-columbiaPharrell will make one of the years best selling albums and cement is place as one of the ultimate collaborators and pioneers in the modern music industry. Having just signed to Columbia, we can expect something on the scale of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, only crossing more genres. Oh, he’s also writing the score to the Amazing Spider-Man 2.

red-bull-music-academyAs with Adidas, Red Bull will continue to cement itself as a major brand in the music industry that ‘helps out’ rather than ‘steals’ from the experience that corporate sponsors are often assimilated with. They are not encroaching and do a good job of minimal advertisement with maximum product placement. Slowly moving away from the extreme sports it built its brand on, I predict that music will be the new key target market.

boiler-room-logoAs the ‘The world’s leading underground music show‘ currently with other 550 thousand Facebook likes, Boiler Room is not going to stay underground for long. Providing a unique experience to be at secret shows in undisclosed locations, whilst hosting some of the worlds best up and coming DJ’s and artists, streaming all of this live online, I predict Boiler Room will aim to set up shop in Australia, the talent and opportunity for growth is is vast down under.

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Not a prediction so much as a wish, I’m really not a big fan of Spotify. I think it’s an impersonal, music industry destroying, unstable, slow service. Johnny Marr the ex Smiths guitarist is of the same opinion. So does Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.

So in 2014, I hope Spotify goes bankrupt.

Happy New Year.

Year in Review: Music Marketing Strategies – A Case for Yeezus

2013 has been a stand out year regarding big star marketing strategies for new albums.

The music industry is in strife and artists are struggling to find new ways to sell records and make money.

We had Miley doing that thing with her ass and tongue, Arcade Fire tip toed on the lines of graffiti, Daft Punk used new streaming services to combat leaks and of course Beyonce just hit us with a bomb.

Two marketing strategies that had stark differences however,  Kanye and Jay Z are known for their various marketing ploys but this year, they’re strategies were polar opposites.

Yeezus vs. Magna Carter Holy Grail

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In May this year, Kanye sent the order down to one of his interns who had to delete every single one of his tweets. He then posted the two words “June 18.”

There was a clear unorthodox and deliberate lack of promotion behind Yeezus, so much so that you couldn’t even pre-order the record. I Tunes mistakenly put it up for pre-sale and it was immediately taken down.

Unlike most commercial artist releases, it didn’t have an official single and West only made one TV appearance – a performance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”. In comparison to Jay z, Kanye made no promises to the consumers regarding technology, other than good music.

Much of the hype for the new album was generated by edgy, underground tactics. On May 24, thousands of onlookers in 66 different cities around the world watched as West’s face was projected onto large buildings. These artists have the power to think globally straight away. These projections debuted West’s new song, “New Slaves.”

Compared to Jay Z’s 500,00 in its first week, Yeezus sold 327,000 copies in its first week of release.

Due to this untraditional marketing, it may be argued that the album found difficulty in sustaining its momentum, it had the 4th highest first week drop in history.

During his Governor’s Ball performance, where he performed tracks of Yeezus for the first time Kanye ranted – “Honestly at this point, I couldn’t give a fuck about selling a million records.”

Meanwhile in the same week, Jay-Z simply sold one million copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail to Samsung.

For Kanye, there was no elaborate NBA finals advert, just a two worded tweet. There was almost an exclusivity around Yeezus that was lacking on Magna Carter Holy grail. On Yeezus, the product took centre stage.

If a competitive advantage must ‘enhance strengths and minimize weaknesses,’ then Kanye’s weakness is his ego. Through minimal marketing effort, he tamed his ego and managed to convey his strength in his music and make arguably the best album of 2013.

Year in Review: Most Overlooked Album – UMO II

As part of the ‘Year in Review’ series, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sophomore album II has been chosen as 2013’s most overlooked album.

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In 2010, it was the track Ffunny Ffriends that made known the psych rock three piece that is Unknown Mortal Orchestra. On their much-anticipated second release, we hear a return of the guitar and vocal melody driven, reverb saturated hazy sound – with a few new styles creeping into the bands repertoire.

A delicate guitar lick draws the curtain on the sun drenched opening track, which ironically talks about getting away ‘From the Sun.’ The warmth lead singer Ruban Nielson emanates is comparable to early, muddled recordings of a teenage John Lennon. It provides the most obvious backdrop to ease into the catchy hooks that are to follow.

The soft snare driven first release of the album ‘Swim and Sleep Like a Shark’ was a prefect introduction to the direction that this album has taken. As the guitar plays a funk inspired riff, a soulful tinge is heard through the crackling of Rubens falsetto that he implements to perfect imperfection.

‘So Good at Being in Trouble’ is the highlight track for me. It is definitely a grower; I didn’t think too much of it at first but had it on repeat after the third listen. A cleaner sound reveals how far Nielson has come with his song writing. He effortlessly talks of a girl who ‘was so good at being in trouble’ but ‘so bad at being in love.’ Simple chords play under his infectious chorus, proving that less is more where his soulful melodies are concerned.

We hear a return to the hard-hitting experience of their first self-titled debut album on the short ‘One at a Time.’

On ‘The Opposite of Afternoon,’ the drummer introduces a feel akin to the Tower of Power, laying down a fat funk groove to brilliant high harmonies put through a phaser.

If there is one album filler song, for me it was ‘No Need for a Leader’. This is quickly elapsed, however, as the next two songs open up with raunchy pedal effected guitar solos that feature on the seven minute ‘Monki’ followed by the one minute long instrumental interlude, ‘Dawn.’

The mood is picked up in the following track ‘Faded in the Morning’ where we hear a return of something that UMO pull off so well – the melody line played on the lead guitar and sung completely balanced in the mix.

Finally, Nielson demonstrates his triumph of infectious melodies as he ‘Na-Na’s’ his way through the closing track ‘Secret Xtians.’

UMO soaked this record in the sun before they pressed it.

It’s a warm record that  will have you humming along to melodies that will stay in your mind. The band have introduced aspects of soul recently unheard of in their sound and flawlessly pushed the boundaries on the amount of delicate funk you can mix with psychedelic rock.

It might be winter where you are right now, or it might be summer. Whatever the weather, this will warm you up or help you enjoy the sun. Turn this record up but just make sure your I-Tunes isn’t sorted alphabetically as Usher might come along, as he did to me, and put a dampener on the party.