Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit, stage left

As a West Brom fan and Labour voter I’m fairly accustomed to losing. I’m used to the pit-of-the-stomach dread that accompanies the diminishing light of night and the harsh glow of dawn once the polls have closed and the floodlights switched off.

It’s no better when you know it’s going to happen. Anticipating defeat doesn’t make it any easier. Often I’ve placed money in bets for the results I feared, hoping that this would soften the blow. It never does but at least my Brexit ‘winnings’ enabled me to buy a few beers to help me forget the outcome, temporarily.
I first wrote about my fears for this Euro-referendum two years ago. It seemed painfully obvious to me that if no-one explained the benefits of membership then the constant drip-feed of anti-EU sentiment would go unchallenged and we’d skate out without a second thought.

So it was. Of course it was considerably more complex than that. Faced with domestic challenges it suited our political overlords to lay blame at the door of the EU rather than accept their share. Rather than delivering a northern powerhouse they’d given us a northern poorhouse. Yes, the economy is faltering and we don’t make or own very much but here’s a story about bananas and some misplaced fear of immigrants to distract you.

All the anti-EU campaign had to do was adopt the Conservative election trick of nominating a large fiscal number, incomprehensible to the average man but relatively small in the scheme of international finance. It didn’t even matter if it was true, truth is the first casualty of war and corrections can be made in small print.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cast Away

The podcast came of age in 2015. Possibly released from the perception that it was edited radio without the music, people realised that the concept was so much more and that the format was awash with great stories.

Serial was the tipping-point, part murder-mystery with elements including a potential miscarriage of justice, you could forgive the occasional irritation caused by the presentation style because you were gripped by the story. It opened a gateway to a world of information and a marketplace for would-be broadcasters everywhere.

I was an early-adopter, having worked in radio that was probably to be expected. Long before the internet took hold I used to harass people to record stuff on cassette tape so that I could hear presenters like Howard Stern, Chris Tarrant and Christian O’Connell. As podcasting launched it enabled me to catch-up with great talent like Geoff Lloyd, Andy Bush, Frank Skinner and Dave Gorman. A period working at Absolute Radio had given me an insight into their genius whilst making me slightly playlist-phobic, hearing them without the music could be a bonus! As a qualifier I should note that there’s few better music stations, I was just over-exposed.

2016 and finding an easy way to listen to more podcasts in my car has greatly broadened my horizons. Spurred by a suggestion that you’re likely to be more intelligent if you listen to stimulating audio in the morning, I immersed myself in the world of podcasts. This immersion allows me to share the following ‘insights’ which could help if you’re looking for similar inspiration.

The first thing I discovered was no great surprise. There’s a lot of crap out there. The reason radio is, in the main, so good is that they have trained and talented broadcasters and producers. They also have decent facilities and production values. That is clearly not the case for a lot of podcasts and podcasters. A huge amount of subject matter that I may have been interested in hearing about was ruined by the presenter or the production.

I suspect I’m a snob but I’m sure the home-technology is there to ensure that the basics are adhered to – stuff like varying levels of audibility, interviews where the interviewer is loud and the interviewee is so quiet that you can’t get the balance right when you’re listening. More common still is that you’ll find a level for the speech only to get a musical stab part-way through the ‘cast that practically bursts your eardrums.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bully, for you

Simplicity is king. We’re so used to sound-bite, short-form, headline-hungry, click-bait that we don’t seem able to deal with stuff if it goes beyond 140 characters. If there’s no image, vid or gif you can forget it.

 Never have we had so much access to information and so little use for it. In my kindlier moments I think we’re paralysed by choice but generally I fear that everyone’s too lazy to dig beneath the surface.

We’re time-poor and overburdened with options, only the attention-grabbing and emotion-stirring manages to cut through. If we’re not provoked into rage that stirs an angry ‘click and share’ moment, then we just move onto the next outrage or pacifier. I’d like to be more involved but LOOK there’s a cat with huge eyes.

In these conditions the loudest and brashest thrive. Keep the message simple and shout it with enough confidence and you can’t fail. It’s an ecosphere that positively encourages the bully. In the home of the brave and the land of the free they’re proving this point so emphatically that few of us can have failed to notice.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The originator principle

My recent work, partially driven by consolidation and having worked for all the major radio groups, has diversified into sectors I probably wouldn’t have considered were it not for financial need and a desire to stretch myself. In many respects though it’s been a relief to engage in proper marketing even if the goalposts have shifted since I last found myself actively selling.

The biggest development is of course with regard to social media, search marketing, online in general. It was a steep learning curve and one I’m still attempting, with crampons and ice-picks. That I am doing it in a sector that I’d not actually encountered until 14 months ago added to the challenge. Thus I am abandoned in the world of hair loss and a radical, innovative solution – Scalp MicroPigmentation.

My involvement began with content creation and copy-checking, putting together the foundations of the company website. It was a useful way to get a grip of the terminology and an understanding of what it does for the recipient. I’ve always found it difficult to ‘sell’ something I don’t believe in so this was a valuable grounding, the reasons to believe.

This nascent industry had crept under my radar and that of many others but to those who have sought it out it has provided a transformation in both their appearance and confidence. Part of my role is to piece these stories together and reach out to the wider – and balder – community.

Consequently, I am now managing a range of social media streams and getting involved in content generation and marketing. It’s a brave new world.

One result of managing spend across social media is that you encounter unlikely trolling. A response to one of our recent posts about our pioneering scalp micropigmentation treatment was a message that simply said ‘Prefer to use the company that invented it’.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Bowie principles

Planet earth is blue. The outpouring of love for Bowie is unsurprising. Few artists have had success in so many sectors over so many decades. He belonged to the internet generation, pre and post, a child of the space race with the determination and talent to excel. He is rightly revered.

I may not have always loved him. He made some music I never want to hear again and some I’d gladly listen to every day. The fact that he was able to transcend mistakes, to float above the norms, mark him out as truly special.

Aside from the music I wondered what his legacy meant for other musicians, what lessons could be learned. 

Work hard      

Signed in the sixties, the original David Bowie was a mod. At least in style. His music had folk/pop leanings and it was unsuccessful. These were different times. He tried hard but couldn’t buy a hit, experiencing three years between hit singles, a first album that flopped followed by another two that did the same. All three albums eventually charted in 1972 after Ziggy.

Before and between albums he played live, joined a dance school, wrote songs for others, appeared in a tv commercial, expanded his influences. He flogged himself around trying to catch a break.

Absorb your influences

We hear a lot about Bowie the chameleon, he was far more of a sponge. He picked up musical and stylistic influences that he liked and absorbed them into his art.  It’s not all about the music although it is said that the Ziggy persona that gave him his break came from moulding his favourite elements of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.

Pay It Back

Bowie/Ronson produced Lou Reed’s Transformer. Bowie also wrote and performed on Iggy Pop’s The Idiot and Lust For Life, playing live in the band. If Ziggy was theft of their identities then David re-paid it many times over. Throughout his career he had an eye for talent and would go out of his way to champion it. Be generous in your largesse, it pays off.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The dormant volcano

It’s been a while. Others were able to spend more time on dissecting the music industry and no-one needed me to echo or challenge those thoughts. I spent some time thinking about a new direction for this blog but aside from challenging injustice in the media, which no-one seems too bothered about, this is what I know……so, for now, it rolls on.

While I was away Adele was saving the music industry with her mega-sales whilst simultaneously proving that we have created a two-tier system in music. We have a few major stars selling across any platform and a mass of niche artists working their long-tails in the background. This is the new normal.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Remembrance of things

The past is a mysterious place, famously described (in The Go Between) as a foreign country because ‘they do things differently there’. Though we may choose, or try, to live in the present we are confronted by our past in more ways than ever, it is omnipresent. The past is inescapable.

As with most things you can blame the internet for this. All social media is a constant reminder of a time and a place, perhaps often one that you’d rather have escaped. Facebook is the core culprit, constantly telling you about something you did, or posted, two or three years gone. It is difficult to forget anything, except probably the important stuff.
My Facebook is a link to a community of distant souls, separated by time and occasionally continents. It is a reminder of the person you once were or have tried to be. I am frequently amazed and bemused by things I discover of which I had no recollection. I recently wrote a piece for The Birmingham Music Archive on The COD Club, a venue I ran for a period in the late 80s. A short time later I discovered I had the dates completely wrong – I had relied on an accounts book kept of attendances and artists but it seems that I’d started the accounts book at least three months after starting the club. Now I have no way of knowing when it started and who the first band actually was.
I am now in touch with many former friends and acquaintances from that era and once again Facebook is to blame. Few of them have changed much, retaining the humour and spirit that was essential to being a struggling performer. Indeed many continue to perform and are still struggling - but often with something more to show for it.