New Thumpers Single.
New Thumpers Single.
I’ve just finished watching The Punk Singer, the film about Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. Though I was a fan of the first Le Tigre record and had heard Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill I’d never really taken the time to discover Bikini Kill, read about Kathleen and really look deep into what the Riot Grrrl movement was all about. This is really a perfect place to start.
I will say it’s a massive shame that in the UK the film is really difficult to get hold of. The film is out on iTunes in the States and is currently on a tour around theatres but in the UK I am only aware of 3 screenings at Hackney’s Picturehouse for the BFI London Film Festival. I’m sure there were more but either way, with a DVD release planned for March 25th in the US it would be a huge shame if this film isn’t given some sort of release outside. Fingers crossed the film will get a little more exposure from the likes of BBC4 or Channel 4 in the UK.
The film addresses many issues in Kathleen’s life and issues surrounding the feminist movement. It’s a massively insightful piece of work about an inspiring woman. In an age of veritable macho crowds Kathleen flipped the situation bringing girls to the front of the crowd. Seeing women groped at shows when they’re dancing or crowdsurfing is something that has always made me uneasy and angry. When Kathleen’s husband, Beastie Boy, Ad-Rock, addressed the issue of rape and sexual assault at the Woodstock Festival ‘99 whilst accepting the award for Best Hip Hop Video at the 1999 MTV VMA awards the crowd seemed to react in a way that nobody was ever fucking aware that thing went on. I think this is still in some circles a problem today. The more people make people aware that’s it’s not fucking acceptable the better and this film did that.
The film also addresses Hanna’s battle with Lyme Disease, which she was suffering from for 5 years before doctor’s picked it up. There are a couple of very personal scenes shot by Adam Horovitz showing Hanna’s reaction to the strong medication that she was prescribed to battle the disease.
Anyway, the point of this post is that I want people to see this film. Even if you’re not a fan or Bikini Kill or Le Tigre it’s a wonderful piece on a wonderful woman.
Go check out the website for more information http://www.thepunksinger.com/
2013 has been a funny old year for music. The year started with the news that HMV had filed for administration. It was a pretty bleak time. At the time I was working at Essential Music / Cooking Vinyl. The week after HMV went down we were due to release Welsh band, The Blackout’s 4th album. The campaign had been building well and although there was a strong D2C setup HMV was one of the key retailers for the album. Sadly all HMV instore performances were cancelled. Though the band entered the UK midweek charts at number 9 the album dropped to 35 by the end of the week. Thank goodness that retailers like Banquet Records in Kingston exist.
It was a real kick in the teeth for artists releasing in the initial weeks of the year as the future of the last nationwide music chain in the UK lay in the balance. Even with the buyout from Hilco it still took time to settle the situation and 103 stores around the UK were shut down leaving a huge number of towns and cities without a store to buy physical music*. You could of course argue that these stores weren’t exactly selling much more of a diversity from the likes of Tesco and Asda but perhaps it continued to effect the mentality of some consumers. It certainly made an effect on Amazon as at the same time Play.com stopped actively being a music retailer which meant that Amazon had no real competition in the mainstream physical online retail market.
* You could also argue most of them had become a budget DVD, Game and Gadget store
Though the year started on pretty big negative it opened up the doors for labels and artists to be more creative with ways to sell music to fans. D2C platforms continued to thrive in 2013 and the biggest D2C release of the year was of course the long awaited 3rd My Bloody Valentine album. We don’t know exactly how many the album sold as it wasn’t opened up to the OCC but i’ve heard the rumours and yes, I’m sure Kevin Shields didn’t exactly have a barren Christmas this year.
Plenty artists returned in 2013 with some weird, wonderful and exciting marketing and campaign tactics. Bowie returned on January 8th, his 66th birthday, with a new single, ‘Where Are We Now?’, appearing on iTunes unannounced and a 24th studio album appearing for pre-order shortly after. Beyonce followed suit in December putting her new audio/visual album up on iTunes with no pre-warning. 2 things excited me about this album, 1 being that the album was put on iTunes with no individual tracks being made available and the other being that unlike Lady Gaga’s ‘Artpop’, which felt like that album was 10 years old by the time it came out, there was instant excitement about the album & a release that was instantly available * which gave Beyonce 617,213 sales in the US on the first week. A huge achievement even for an artist like Beyonce. Put that in comparison with Lady Gaga who sold 258,000 on week one whilst Miley (270,000) & Katy Perry (286,000) still come far behind.
* Note. As we all know it’s all well and good when Beyonce, David Bowie and Radiohead experiment with new album release tactics. Not so easy for new artists.
On a personal level the Daft Punk album campaign was fascinating for me. I’ll admit I was a sucker for every element of it. Each time a piece of content was put out into the world and shared via social networks or YouTube I was lapping it up. It was exciting to see how an artist’s vision rolled out over the campaign. Starting with a simple image on Facebook then with the first 15 second ad appearing on SNL in the states and in turn being shared via one fan’s YouTube video around the world the campaign gathered ridiculous amounts of momentum without the band really doing what seemed like anything. As each billboard and ad spot was grabbed and shared around the world the momentum grew and grew. Another 15 second spot aired, a more revealing video ad was aired at Coachella, collaborator videos were posted on the bands website and when Get Lucky was finally released it gave the band a number one single in 55 territories. This included Daft Punk’s first UK number 1 single. Get Lucky also broke Spotify records for streams in the first 24 hours. At this stage now Get Lucky is near 150,000,000 streams on Spotify and the same figure on VEVO with countless further streams via UGC on YouTube. From a digital marketing perspective I tried to work out if the band / label had spent any money on digital marketing, The answer is basically no. The campaign seemed to take an analog to digital approach. Each ad was an event and in turn this event was shared by fans, not by labels and artist (initially).
2013 was also the year of the Spotify rebellion. Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich pulled the Atoms for Peace debut album from Spotify alongside Thom Yorke’s debut album The Eraser. Now let’s be honest everyone has waded into this debate. Am I really going to shed any insight that we haven’t heard yet? Probably not. I will say though I do think that streaming services, digital download and physical music can work in unison but to be honest I think that the music industry has been lazy. The music isn’t really the whole picture. Fans buy into the story, into the buzz, into the excitement of an album, oh and even more, fans buy into a GREAT album or song. Just releasing an album doesn’t really work does it? Maybe I’m somewhat of a traditionalist, to be honest I buy my music in 2 ways; Albums I buy Vinyl, Tracks I buy on iTunes. If there is a record I struggle to get hold of or want to listen to instantly then I stream through Spotify. I’ll use Spotify to put playlists together. Anyway, this is going off the point. My point is this. Band’s have core fans that buy into anything the band put out, these are the sort of fans who bought into the wonderful and bizarre Boards of Canada cryptic reveal of their album in 2013. The campaign that required fans from around the world to unlock the album title by inputting a code on the band’s website. The code was split into 6 sections of 6 numbers each. Each number was revealed via a number of cryptic messages from a number of sources from vinyls to broadcasts on Radio 1, Adult Swim, NPR, a YouTube video & the HTML code from an image on the band’s message board. Not a campaign I’d imagine would be used by too many bands but it worked a dream for BOC’s fanbase.
I’m going totally off the point, to summarise. There are core fans who buy into anything, fans who’ll perhaps buy 1 or 2 of your albums, fans who’ll perhaps buy a track or stream an album or 2 and fans that might enjoy hearing a song on radio. The job there is to bring those fans nearer the inner circle.
Anyway. What actually happened in terms of great records coming out in 2013. Well, Arctic Monkeys returned with arguably their finest album to date in AM. Manic Street Preachers delivered their finest since the 90’s for sure. Kanye released Yeezus and took egotism to levels not seen since…. urm Kanye’s last album? There were great hip hop records from Pusha T, Chance The Rapper, Ka, Earl Sweatshirt & Run The Jewels. There were some great tracks on records from A$AP Ferg, A$AP Rocky & there was of course that Kendrick verse on the Ab-Soul & Jay Rock track. Great electronic albums from Jon Hopkins, Flume, Gesaffelstein, Boards Of Canada, Toro Y Moi, Factory Floor, Fuck Buttons & Daniel Avery plus exciting new acts like SOHN breaking through. In the Dance world Disclosure lived up to all expectations with Settle and Rudimental dropped their debut. There were great releases from Todd Terje, KAYTRANADA, Roosevelt, Kidnap Kid & Gorgon City. Next year brings the likes of Lxury who i’m very excited about. In the rock world there were fantastic albums from Queens of the Stoneage and Deafheaven.
The indie world gave us great albums from Daugher, Arctic Monkeys, The National, Matthew E White, Hookworms, Autre Ne Veut, Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett, London Grammar, Outfit, Dutch Uncles, Local Natives, Vampire Weekend, Mikal Cronin, John Grant (well its almost pop), Kurt Vile, Thee Oh Sees & Volcano Choir. The Arcade Fire album offered some amazing tracks though I’d argue the album is bloated. Next year promises some great records from a ton of artists, Temples (I’ve heard it & believe me it’s incredible) Wolf Alice, Thumpers (Again, this record will the soundtrack to many people’s summer), Wild Beasts, Cheatahs, Cloud Nothings, War On Drugs, Rhodes, Jungle, Cut Ribbons and oh I can’t wait for the new Real Estate record! Finally I can’t wait for everyone to hear the Lucius album, I’m seriously in love with it. Two Of Us On The Run from that record just get’s me.
2013 delivered some great pop moments from Pet Shop Boys to Daft Punk to the emergence of Banks and Sky Ferreira (though her record really was a tale of 2 halves) to the ever growing return of Pharrell (but can we just forget Robin Thicke please?) to Chvrches to bits of the 20/20 Justin experience and the general release of the Beyonce album (not that Amazon and Target bought into that….) It’s really 2014 that I’m looking forward to in the pop world. With Banks brand of throbbing minimal electro-pop to Raleigh Ritchie reminding us what made that first NERD record so great through to Chloe Howl going out and making fun, feisty teen angst pop and finally Mapei. Her tune ‘Don’t Wait’ is without a doubt one of the finest pieces of pop music out this year, like a new Kelis. I can’t wait to hear more.
Anyway, here are, because we all want to see it my top tracks and albums from 2013……..
10. Banks - Waiting Game
9. Local Natives - Black Balloons / Bowery
8. Kurt Vile - Was All Talk
7. Thumpers - Unkinder (A Tougher Love)
6. Ulrich Schnauss - I Take Comfort In Your Ignorace (Tycho Remix)
5. Daughter - Smother
4. Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know?
3. The National - Humiliation
2. James Blake - Retrograde
1. Vampire Weekend - Hannah Hunt
10. Courtney Barnett - The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas
9. Local Natives - Hummingbird
8. Foals - Holy Fire
7. Earl Sweatshirt - Doris
6. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City
5. Jon Hopkins - Open Eye Signal
4. Disclosure - Settle
3. Arctic Moneys - AM
2. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
1. Daughter - If You Leave
GIGS / FESTIVALS
10. Foals - Leeds Met / ¡Forward Russia / This Et Al - Leeds Brudenell
9. Temples / Telegram - London Electric Ballroom
8. Kraftwerk - London Turbine Hall
7. My Bloody Valentine - London Apollo
6. De La Soul - ATP
5. Fleetwood Mac - London O2
4. The Cribs - Leeds O2 Academy
3. Bob Dylan - Royal Albert Hall
2. The National / Local Natives - London Roundhouse
1. Latitude Festival (Genuinely the best fun I’ve had at a festival for about 6 years.)
So yeah, 2013. Music wise, it was a good year….. Turn off the lights when you leave…
‘SB-01’ by Unknown Mortal Orchestra is my new jam.
So how would you describe your role as a producer, in general?
Just as fan. Making music that I want to hear. You’re so close to something when you write it that it’s hard to have any perspective on how it hits someone else. My job is to be a professional version of the outside world—a listener who is not attached to any of it, who doesn’t know the story of how it was written, who doesn’t know how it works, who doesn’t know why this is important to you.”
A load of my faves from 2013. Merry Xmas!
‘Love Is To Die’ by Warpaint is my new jam.
Soundtrack to the Summer 2014