It’s Nothing Personal

I am not mourning the death of Michael Jackson. It’s nothing personal. And by that, I mean that’s the reason I’m not mourning. I didn’t know Mr Jackson. I don’t even know anyone who did know him.

It’s like the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The world wailed and cried. I was sorry that she had left two young sons without a mother. Likewise, I am sorry that Michael Jackson’s young children will be without their father. I am also sorry for the thousands each day throughout the world who become orphans and feel the same loss as Prince, Paris, and Blanket (otherwise known by their real names: Michael, Paris, and Prince). But grief and mourning are based upon a personal loss.

He was a significant contributor to popular culture, though I can’t say that’s necessarily a particularly laudable thing, either. I don’t know that we are better off for the moonwalk, the crotch grab, or faux militaria and the single glove. Like I said, it’s nothing personal.

I am also sad for the thousands of people who appear to be beside themselves at his death. They seem lost for meaning or purpose and shocked that he is no longer “with us”. Why it should be remarkable that a 50-year-old man who constantly abused his body with surgery and drugs has died, I don’t know.  It speaks volumes about state of world.  Those volumes make up a very sad story (again, about the world, not about Jackson).

When it comes to people I know, with whom I have a relationship as family, friend, or even acquaintance, when they mourn, I mourn, for I participate in a small way in their loss. This is why as Orthodox Christians we have panikhida services in our parishes. We share each others’ love and temporary loss in hope of the Resurrection of the Dead and the life of the world to come. We light our own candle for a loved one now beyond the veil, but we light our candles from each other and they shine together. Together we sing, “Memory eternal!”

The wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Michael Jackson cheapens death itself. It shares something with the constant images of violence and death that are the substantance of so many films and video games. We no longer see it as our common end, a pointer to our own mortality. It is a spectator sport.

Let Michael Jackson’s family and friends grieve and mourn his loss. He has secured his place in history. Let it be for us to remember that as he has become, so shall we all one day be, awaiting the Final Judgement.

Money for Nothing Becomes Nothing for Money

Regular readers may have noticed that whilst I am very conservative about many things, I am somewhat progressive on the issue of digital intellectual property rights. And I practice what I preach.

For example, there are television programmes that have been scattered electromagnetically into the atmosphere for everyone with a television to enjoy for free. While the technology is there for those waves of son et lumière to go anywhere in the world, they have been limited to certain geographical regions, so they can be sold and resold and resold in different markets to make already obscenely rich people even more obscenely rich. I only use the word “obscenely” twice in the same sentence because my megre vocabulary is insufficient to appropriately modify the word rich.

The Internet has created a giant ocean of ones and zeros drifting in and out of the millions of connections within it. It has eliminated the borders and the broadcast restrictions, even if there are companies out there trying as hard as they can to claim part of these high seas as their own. Or you might say they are trying to dam the ones and zeros within their territorial waters. You might say they are trying to limit fishing in their territorial waters by trying to keep hold of the fish. But that’s the problem: you can keep boats out, but you can’t keep fish in.

The fact of the Internet Ocean is that 90% of the music fish are swimming freely. In other words, even given all of the “legal” download sites and services, 90% of music is downloaded without the express written consent of the music industry.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) is the face of the record industry cartel in the UK, the British equivalent of the RIAA.  They claim that file sharing has cost the industry £1.1 billion a year. What they mean is that they have identified £1.1 billion that they could have accrued and didn’t. It didn’t actually cost them anything. It didn’t cost anyone another yacht in the Med or a twelfth sprawling estate in another exotic and exclusive location. It didn’t take any money out of a tax-protected off-shore account.

The BPI have bullied the British Government and the major ISPs in this country into forcing the ISPs into sending letters to customers based on the BPIs spying. If the BPI thinks a particular IP address is uploading an illegal file, they contact the ISP, which is then obliged to send a letter to the account belonging to the IP address giving details of the alleged file-sharing incident. I got such a letter the other day.

Was it about television programmes or films or even various albums (most of which don’t even get copied to CD and end up in the recycle bin)? No, it was about a single Britney Spears track that no one in our household has ever uploaded, downloaded, or otherwise loaded. You would think with all of the billions of pounds the BPI’s member labels have made, they could afford to get the information even somewhere near correct.

Legal threats aside, in reality what has happened is that the revenue stream is concentrating more and more on live music. That is the one thing that is not copyable. But this means that musicians have to work harder and maybe make less money. Perhaps some of you will pity them for this. I don’t.

It used to be that musical acts had to invest huge sums of money in studios and technology to produce records. Now top selling CDs have been produce in bedrooms with digital recording equipment. Making records has become easier and cheaper, thus increasing the profit margins. Now these recordings are going to have to be adverts for concerts where real music will have to be played in real time for real people.

I have been saying for a long time that the developments in technology mean concepts about intellectual property law will have to be dramatically reformulated. Those who are profiting the most, those piggybacking on the actual creators of ideas, are trying to formulate new revenue streams so they can continue to make money for nothing (sound anything like the bankers who have precipitated the world economic collapse?) but music cartels will eventualy have to realise that music is only worth what people are willing to pay for it and increasingly (if you can keep increasing from 90%) they aren’t.

Swiftly to the Top

I got the new Taylor Swift record a few days ago. Like her first album, it knocked my socks off and it hasn’t been out of my CD player, other than to give it brief relief while I listen to her Christmas EP. It replaced my copy of the latest Kellie Pickler CD at the top of the stack.

I am at the top end of the Taylor Swift listener demographic and her lyrics do not reflect my level of life experience. Part of the appeal of her music, beyond drawing out the false nostalgia of high school and young adult experiences I always wished I had, is the relief from the overly sexualised themes that seem unavoidable in most music today.

The rumour recently raced through the Internet that Taylor was pregnant. Not only that – she was reported to pregnant by Joe Jonas. There was dripping salivation at these stories, because Swift and Jonas are both Christians and both virgins. This was almost as good a story as Jamie Lynn Spears’ second teen pregnancy. The world is desperate for good people to turn bad.

I’m glad that Taylor doesn’t do “Christian” music. There are probably still those out there that live in the same sort of musical bubble I did, where there is Christian music and secular music and if you are a Christian and a musician, it is assumed that you to the former because if you do the latter, there is something spiritually wrong with you. On top of that, if you do Christian music, you are expected to have a music ministry. If you aren’t out there to evangelise or worship, you need to have some sort of spiritual goal for your listeners.

Unlike a number of successful artists who have started a music career at her age, she does not presume (or presumably even desire) to have a ministry. She just writes good music on the themes of her life, most of which involve a revolving door of innocent relationships.

To review Fearless itself, it is satisfying because it goes where it wants to go and gets there. In constrast, while I like the Kellie Pickler CD, it doesn’t do this. It appears that Kellie is trying to do a country-pop cross-over thing, even including a re-recorded or re-mixed song from her last album.  I never heard her on American Idol, but she has a voice made for country. Taylor’s voice isn’t as intrinsically country, and her style is less distinctly country, but it isn’t all over the place.

The songs are as good as the first album, which is difficult for a sophomore project. Even though she isn’t a sophomore herself, as when she record the debut, she also doesn’t have a catalog to draw from that dates from the 6th grade. (Who else is so talented that they have a song written in elementary school on a multi-platinum record? Or début with a smash single written in freshman math class? There are some old unsuccessful songwriters out there that find this very irritating.) I can hear at least four or five radio singles.  It sold over 200,000 copies on the first day it was released and was certified gold by the end of the week. It had over 129,000 legal downloads in the first week.

I’m glad she (or her record company) has stuck with Nathan Chapman as her producer. He’s clearly got what it takes to tap Taylor’s talent onto tape.

Not As Easy As It Looks

At our house we’ve already started ballet, karate and Scouts. The next logical step is musical instruments.

The Older Child has been on about learning to play the guitar for some time. He was even looking into taking lessons at school. While the former seemed plausible, the latter is ridiculous, given that the Older Child’s father has been playing guitar for almost 29 years and has taught guitar for almost as long, including teaching children not much older than the Older Child.

Because my acoustic guitar is way too big for the Child to use, we considered repairing a 3/4 size guitar belonging to the Unnamed Woman. It ony needed a bridge, nut, strings, and perhaps a few other bits and bobs, plus I’m not sure the tuning mechanism even holds. And it’s still a bit big for his hands. Or we could buy a new one. We took the Woman’s guitar to a repair shop to get an estimate for bringing it into working order. It was only £15 more to get a new half-size guitar.

We went with the latter option. He had money from his grandfather and at least he was putting some of it into something of more value than most of the toys he buys.

The Older Child was under the same impression about guitar playing that I was about snow skiing when I was 5. You just put on the skis and away you go, right? As soon as he got the guitar, he did the musical equivalent of standing still in the snow. He wanted to play a song and the Woman wanted me to buy him a guitar book.

After explaining how the strings and frets are numbered for reference, he tried his first chord. E minor. I always start with E minor because it is the simplest. The finger positioning wasn’t a problem for the Child. Pressing down with his fingertips and not touching anywhere else on the neck of the guitar was another matter. He had no idea that guitar playing involves pain.

His enthusiasm began to wain a bit. He finally began to understand that he will not be playing “Johnny B. Goode” like Michael J Fox in Back to the Future any time soon.

This morning he was strumming on his guitar again, playng a muted E minor. I hope he has the interest to follow through, even with the pain in the fingers. He is starting 10 years earlier than I did. I hope one day he is better than me.

Sharing Another Difference Between the US and UK

Another contrast between the US and UK has become apparent today when the FCC ruled against Comcast hampering file sharing. In the UK, people have been getting warning letters from their ISPs if they have been suspected of file sharing.

The British Government want to cut file sharing by 80% by 2011. British Phonographic Industry – the trade cartel for the UK record industry – has cut a deal with six of the UK’s biggest ISPs. The ISPs have agreed a three-strikes policy against customers who are suspected by the BPI of file sharing.

And just because the ISPs are agreeing to boot offenders, this doesn’t mean the cartel won’t take people to court for damages. They have and they will again. That’s not to say the equivalent US cartel, the Record Industry Association of America won’t sue people. They also have and will again.

The difference is the approach by Government. The BPI have Whitehall in their pocket. You’re thinking those must be very big pockets to fit Whitehall in them, but trust me, the BPI and its members have big pockets. Much bigger pockets than the private individuals they like to pick off and litigate into financial oblivion.

I’m not suggesting the record industry isn’t hurting from the downturn in CD sales. But they’re not losing money. Let’s be straight about this. You can’t lose someting you don’t have. Unless you have either pocketed someone’s money and it gets taken out of your pocket or you have invested money and end up with less than you’ve invested, you haven’t lost money. But they are hurting because it must be emotionally painful to be used to wallowing in billions and billions of pounds and to now have fewer billions in which to wallow. Think of what it must be like to be filthy rich and after a huge slump in sales to be, well, filthy rich.

Let me say this again: when you are making huge profits and then you are making less huge profits, you are not losing money.

In the US, the RIAA has had to face accusations of the obvious – they are an antitrust violating monopoly. It appears from my brief look at existing litigation that the RIAA are in retreat. Most recently it seems they have tried to drop cases in such a way as to punish the defendants by forcing them to pay their own legal fees, which, when fighting giant corporations and their lawyers, can be enormous. They have now been losing at that tactic.

In the UK, the courts have not been so enlightened. it is strange to think that in a very capitalist country like the US, the courts and even Congress can see through attempts at creating illegal monopolies and bullying the consumer, while in the socialist UK, big business wins.

So once again in the UK we have to deal with a heavy-handed totalitarian-aspiring Government and their collusion with industry cartels that are determined to maintain their profit levels. I haven’t even touched on the Government supporting the energy utilities putting up their prices by 35% in a single hike to maintain or even increase their profit levels in the face of rising energy costs.

Country Music Goes PC

As I have mentioned before, I’m a big fan of country music artist Taylor Swift. I may not fit her target demographic, but clearly she has a broad enough fan base to be the only female artist in the history of the Billboard country charts to have five consecutive Top 10 singles from a debut album.

I was pleased to learn that she got her high school diploma through a Christian homeschooling organisation. Families have to agree with Aaron Academy’s statement of faith. I’m guessing that means Taylor and her family are Christians.

I acquired a copy of the available-only-at-Wal-mart EP Beautiful Eyes. Since we have no Country radio in this country, I had never heard the radio mix of “Picture to Burn”. I was disappointed that the PC lobby apparently got to her record company. The lyrics originally said:

So go and tell your friends
That I’m obsessive and crazy,
That’s fine
I’ll tell mine
You’re gay,
And by the way,

Now the last part says:

That’s fine,
you won’t mind
if I say

The thing is that the original lyrics weren’t even offensive gay listeners, if the 90 comments on the 9513 blog are any indication. It’s only politically correct straight people who couldn’t get the context and the usage. The original lyric is about retaliation and fighting fire with fire. (Not exactly turn the other cheek stuff, but when have you ever known an offended young woman to thinkabout that when it comes to lying ex-boyfriends?) The new lyric makes no sense.

A perfectly good lyric has been sacrificed for the sake of a group who don’t even care.

Leaving Day

Well, the Year 11s are officially gone. Only officially, because their first exam is tomorrow and it is mine. If my timetable will permit it, I hope to be outside the exam room as they leave to get exit poll reaction before I collect up the question papers for my future use.

At the request of some of them, I brought my guitar into school and played a 30-minute set for a modest crowd of them at lunch outside on the playing fields in the marvellous sunshine.

Another Country Queen

Being on the wrong side of the ocean for any radio exposure to country music, it takes a while for me to pick up on what’s hot. First I discovered Carrie Underwood,  and more recently Taylor Swift. Now with Kellie Pickler, I have completed my collection of the current triumvirate Queens of Nashville.

Once again, I have found an album that knocks my socks off. What distinguishes Kellie and her songs are the reality of them. Country music tends to have a real-life feel about it generally, but Carrie and Taylor have fairly conventional happy family backgrounds. Nothing wrong with that and I’m not denying that conventional or happy is just as real-life as any other. Kellie was deserted by her mother at age two. Her father has been in and out of prison and she was raised by her grandparents, until her grandmother died when Kellie was in high school. Not surprisingly, there’s a little more pain in Kellie’s songwriting.

I’m sure that there are male country artists who are worth a listen. It’s just a matter of finding a way to squeeze them into my playlist amongst the three beautiful blondes.

Discoveries

I’ve written a few bad songs I’d like to forget. Yesterday I discovered that I had written some bad songs that I had forgotten.

The last time I was at my parents’ house I was rummaging through some boxes of my old cassettes. I found some of my old music and brought it back to the UK. Even though it has been over a year, I hadn’t listened to some of it.

I pulled out what sounds like a tape for recording snippets of ideas and new songs. There was some real crap on it. Then at the end there is a zippy little worship chorus that I had forgotten.

Oh Lord you are my God
I wil exalt and praise Your name
(x2)

For in perfect faithfulness He has done great things
We waited on the Lord, and He saved
Let us rejoice and be glad, and be glad.

It’s taken from Isaiah 25:1,9. I’m pretty sure I wrote it – the music, I mean. I can’t think of any other reason it would be on the tape. I remember playing it frequently for a time in church.

Last night I was looking for the Texas tapes and found another on the CD rack. Many boyfriends used to make compliation tapes of various artists for their girlfriend. Instead, many years ago I sent the Unnamed Woman a compilation of my music. I don’t know whether she ever really listened to it. Fortunately, she didn’t record over it.

The little felt pad under the middle of the cassette track where the head reads the tape is broken. The tape player kept wanting to shut it off, but I held down the play button until it stayed down. I discovered the best archive of my acoustic music in existence. I also discovered that I had completely forgotten a really good song. In fact, I was surprised how good it is.

Because the tape is so fragile, I’m not listening to it again until I transfer it to CD on Wednesday or Thursday.

Just Doing Business

It’s easy to forget sometimes that the Christian music business is just that. It’s business. It costs money to produce CDs. For those who are in demand to the extent that they perform full-time, they have to support themselves and their families.

For some time this has even extended to the area of worship music.  As The Blah Blah notes, we even have star worship leaders. Of course you can’t blame someone if they are so good at what they do in a genre that people want to listen to. Even as an Orthodox convert, I can’t help (or at least don’t help) being a bit jealous of the talents of Chris Tomlin or David Crowder. I used to crank out some worship tunes (and have a couple new tunes in the hopper), and some have been done in more than one church, but I’ve not found the consistency of creating a hook that demands mass publication. I also don’t have that smooth light clean tenor voice that turns a worship leader into a recording artist.

The worst of the Christian music business is when disputes over power, control and money spill into the public domain – especially when it results in resorting to the courts.  That’s what happened with The Imperials. There are now three groups trying to stay in business using that name.

Larry Norman, RIP

Thanks to my friend Greg for letting me know that the Father Christian Rock passed from here to eternity in the wee hours of Sunday morning. He emailed me the link to a story on the Christianity Today website.

I was never a big fan of Larry. Nothing personal. As a performer, he didn’t appeal to me, particularly when I first discovered contemporary Christian music in the late ’70s. I liked other people doing some of his songs. In the very early days of performing – and while still a dispensational pre-millenialist (and that’s going back a long ways)  – like ever other Christian teen I used to play “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. Watching some of his performances on YouTube, I think I would enjoy him more now.

Nonetheless, I don’t underestimate the impact he had on a lot of artists to whom I made much more of an immediate connection, as well as his importance as a groundbreaking artist. Even a two-bit songwriter like me owes him a debt of gratitute.

Thanks, Larry.

I keep looking at this mirror
At the age around my eyes
Time is such an earnest laborer
Precision is its neighbor
Lay my body in the ground
But let my spirit touch the sky

– “I Hope I’ll See You In Heaven”

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Larry, in a place of light, in place of green pasture, in a place of revival, whence all pain, sorrow and sighing have fled away.

Forever Young

The difference between adults and children is that children want to grow up and adults wish they didn’t have to.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I might have further reflection on Peter Pan. Kids love Peter Pan because of all the adventures. They want to fly and fight pirates. Adults just wish they could stay forever young.

I think that’s part of the reason I like to listen to Taylor Swift. Her music, with themes of innocent love and summers past, is nostalgic. It’s a false nostalgia, but sentimental nonetheless. I never had those idealised relationships or breakups – just wished I had. It’s not that I now wish that I had, but rather that I wished it back then. So maybe I’m nostalgic about how I wish I could have been nostalgic. And then there’s the whole wishing I could have been as talented and successful at that age, when I was starting to write music and wanted to be a professional musician but had none of the talent or connections. That’s a lot of layers, but it still gets to the same place.

So part of it is the desire to re-live what was and what could have been, or even what never could have been but would have been really great. But Peter Pan is also about avoiding the consequences of mortality. It’s not just that he stays a boy – he never dies.

Regardless of how old I get or how old I feel, I never think I’m old. It doesn’t seem like I’m 26 years away from my three score and ten. When I dream, I’m not a fat one-legged almost 44-year-old. No, somehow in my mind I’m still in my 20s. I’m grown, but just. Until I remember the truth, I still feel like I’ve got my whole life ahead of me. When I think of the truth, and think of how little I’ve done with the time I’ve been here, it’s just a little depressing

I think about death constantly, but I don’t want to go there. I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to die. With every season of the year that passes, I think about how I have one less to experience ever again. And it’s not like 70 years is a guarantee. Northern Illinois University yesterday is evidence of that. Four years ago, my own brother died at 34.

Sadly, nostalgia is ethereal and mortality unavoidable. The only Neverland is eternity. There is only one way to be forever young, and that is to (hopefully grow old and) die. My favourite Psalm is the antithesis of Peter Pan, perhaps because my desire for a life like the latter brings into clear focus my need for the former. Moses, as recorded in Psalm 90 (in the LXX it is Psalm 89) says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

The Divorce Racket

With the lull in the Britney Spears endless psychotic episode, Brits can turn their attention to these shores for the continuing saga of the divorce between Sir Paul and Lady McCartney. This is a case wherein the term “lady” is certainly a case of form over substance.

I’m not usually one for celebrity news or gossip. However as a lawyer I have been keeping an eye on this one for the precedents it may set. Heather is about to get £55 million for four years of putting up with a luxury lifestyle, though that may be part of the problem. Sir Paul is worth a little bit less than £1 billion but he doesn’t live like it. I mean, he doesn’t live like poor folks, but perhaps Heather was expecting to tap into it a bit more.

But I’m straying into the gossip. What isn’t gossip is that divorce is a lucrative racket. Susan Sangster is getting her fourth divorce. She’s amasses a fortune from her previous marriages and was looking to improve on it after just 14 months. She had hoped to get her pre-nup invalidated, but when she found out that wasn’t going to happen, she decided to cut her losses and run. Probably into the arms of husband number five.

Writing in today’s Daily Mail, Amanda Platell has an insightful commentary on the injustice of modern divorce. It is something that may be a developing phenomenon here, but old hat in the States. Even though I never had a case involving particularly rich clients, the injustice climbs right down the socio-economic ladder. It is one of the reasons I’m glad I don’t practise anymore.

Divorce is the only no-fault breach of contract. In any other cases, if one party wanted to just dissolve the arrangement against the wishes of the other, the breaching party would be responsible to the non-breaching party. In divorce, the breaching party can walk out of the contract without cause and take the other to the cleaners. Hopefully the courts won’t let Heather Mills do this.

Now if we could only get rid of no-fault divorce.

Busking

One thing London has to offer is a variety of buskers. Just about every Tube station has one. Some have more.

The legality of it all is quite confusing.  There was a blind man playing an accordion just down from a sign saying buskers would be fined £200. Clearly he didn’t see the sign. At another station there was a painted (or carefully tiled) semi-circle area on the floor which seemed to be created for busking. I favour the latter approach, as busking really is a London institution. Do people really complain?

The quality ranges from almost professional to atonally bizarre. At one station a hip-hopper with a wireless mike started singing about the kids making up lyrics as we walked by and followed us for a short distance. Then there was the man with no legs who played one note on a pipe of some kind. He just tooted the one note at random intervals.

Disability did seem to be a recurring theme. I suppose that when opportunity or academic inclination hasn’t offset physical handicap, begging is a reasonable recourse. And buskers are actually putting some effort into their work – or in the case of the tooting double amp, at least making a noise to get noticed.

And there are those who seem to be making a lifestyle choice. Two or three times a day, you come across the really talented. These are the ones that should be playing in a band somewhere. Maybe they do in the evenings.

The most memorable busker I have ever heard – in fact, the only one I can remember from more than three days ago – was a Afro-Caribbean man playing classical music on a steel drum at the bottom of an escalator. It was in 1992. I don’t remember the Tube station.  He was playing Für Elise by Beethoven.

(Very) Long (and Rambling) Road Out Of Eden

I intended to get it just after it came out, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I picked up a copy of Long Road Out Of Eden, the new album from the Eagles. I’ve liked the Eagles’ music for a long time, though despite my age I really didn’t discover them until after they broke up.

It is a good album, quite listenable, even if some of Don Henley’s politicising does get tiresome, especially on the title cut about the conflict in Iraq, which exceeds ten minutes in length. Other songs seem to ramble on a bit as well. The sole Joe Walsh contribution, “Last Good Time In Town,” runs seven minutes. I didn’t think I would ever say this about an Eagles album, but even after waiting 28 years for new material, it is too long.

That may be one reason that I haven’t beeen listening to it over and over, like I usually would with a new album. Instead, even after less than a week, I find myself just as likely to listen to Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood. Maybe even more likely.

The other thing is that it is missing Don Felder. Henley and Frey have always been in the spotlight more and I suppose that’s why they decided that when the Eagles re-formed in 1994 they should get the lion’s shares of the money. I suppose Tim Schmidt and Joe Walsh were okay with this, but Felder – who had been with the band since 1974 – didn’t like that the historic arrangement of equal shares was going out the window. In 2001, Henley and Frey fired him and he responded with a lawsuit. It was settled for an undiscolsed amount in May last year. His book has just been released in the UK, though it was pulled by the publisher in the States. I think it is going to be my next musician autobiography.

Wonderful Tonight

I just finished Eric Clapton’s autobiography.

I thought it was quite good. While it chronicled his relationships with family, various girlfriends, and lots of musicians, the overriding theme focuses on his recovery from drug and especially alcohol addiction. He attributes his experience of finally getting dry to prayer, though he is not sure who God is.

He comes across as a very down-to-earth person and not full of himself. It is very self-deprecating. He did wait 62 years to write about himself, as opposed to a lot of celebrities who write autobiographies in their 20s and 30s.

For some reason I was drawn to want to read the book, so my father-in-law got it for me for Christmas. It is only the second musician bio I’ve read (Mick Fleetwood’s was the other and I had never owned a Fleetwood Mac album when I bought it) – I’m normally not big on celebrity lives of any kind.

I never been a huge Clapton fan, though I’ve enjoyed his music since I discovered it in the wake of the Unplugged album. This came at a transitional time in my own songwriting, just as I was starting my band. The music of my song “Won’t Somebody Dance With Me?” influenced by songs like the live (slowed down) version of “Wonderful Tonight”. No doubt there are other strands of his influence in my songs from that period.

No Tears for Media Giants

The Government here is under a lot of pressure from media companies to put a lot of pressure on ISPs to stop file sharing downloads. At the same time, the High Court ruled against a pub landlady who used a foreign service to show Premier League football, rather than BSkyB, which has the exclusive right to show the matches in the UK.

I think there is a difference between using a camcorder in a cinema to get the scoop on the release of a film and downloading a telelvision programme that has already been shown. It’s a bit like the pub landlady, only with no cost implications for the viewer. The programme has already gone to air. It doesn’t cost the end user anything wherever they watch it. If companies want to maximise profits from advertisers, they need to broadcast simultaeously worldwide, rather than go from country to country in a piecemeal fashion.

When it comes to music downloads, I think there is a question as to whether it is mass larceny or mass revolt against the fleecing of the record companies. The record companies are complaining that they face ever-declining profits.

However, back in January 2006, “Sony BMG reported net income of $178 million on sales of $1.49 billion for the three months ended December 31 [2005].” Then this month Bloomberg reported on the BMG half of that partnership:

Bertelsmann AG, Europe’s largest media company, plans to boost revenue by about 50 percent over the next eight years as it expands the Arvato services unit and in countries including China and India.

Sales will exceed 30 billion euros ($44 billion) by 2015, Chief Executive Officer Designate Hartmut Ostrowski said in Berlin today. That’s similar to the revenue Time Warner Inc., the world’s largest media company, posted last year. Bertelsmann will have as much as 7 billion euros to invest in the next four to five years, he said.

Doesn’t your heart just weep for them when somebody shares music? Read the rest of this entry »

Playing In Tune

Sure, we’d all like to see world peace and an end to world hunger, but some nearly as remarkable has been been unveiled today: the self-tuning guitar.

Tuning is a ubiquitous problem for guitiarists, especially for those who change strings frequently. I used to change strings a day or so ahead of a show, just so they wouldn’t go all stretchy on my at an inopportune time. Even then, I often only had one guitar and if something went awry, it was particularly awkward to try and fill those moments with meaningful banter while at the same time getting the pitch just right.

But for those playing on an every day basis, there’s no luxury of time between stringing and playing, though there is usually the option of changing guitars and having a guitar tech fix the problem.  Now for those who don’t mind playing a Gibson, this can be a non-issue.

Personally, I’ve never be a Gibson man, and I’m even less likely to be one now, especially as the self-tuning feature adds $900 to a $2,500 guitar. The only time I strapped on a Les Paul, it was way too heavy in more than just price. No, I’m a Strat man and I’m sure that Gibson have patented the technology to keep it out of the hands of rivals.

I’m sure it will be even longer before it’s available for acoustic guitars, and a 12-string will offer a particular challenge. However, technology is a wonderful thing and now that the breakthrough has been made, advances can’t be far behind. Perhaps one day the world will all sing in harmony. Or at least the guitars will all play in tune.