I am a London-based Digital PR/Social Media/SEO Consultant, music producer/anorak, deep sea diver, avid cyclist, worldwide traveller and football-loving technology bod! This page functions as a kind of online scrapbook/resource featuring my favourite blog posts and news items as well as my own personal reviews and recommendations in the worlds of music, sport, travel and technology!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Shoe throwing incident

First the Iraqi journalist, now a Brit gets in on the act....

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A human rights protester was in police custody Monday after throwing a shoe at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during a speech at Cambridge University.

The shoe landed several meters from Wen Jiabao.

The shoe landed several meters from Wen Jiabao.

The shoe landed several meters from the premier and the man was quickly apprehended by security and handed over to police for questioning on suspicion of committing a public order offence, according to witnesses.

A student who witnessed the incident told CNN that the man had stood up and shouted, "Why are you prostituting yourself? How can you listen to the lies he is telling?"

Cameras filming the speech remained fixed on Wen during the incident, but video images later showed an unidentified student being escorted out of the building by a university proctor.

The student was then handed over to police, a university spokesman, who would not disclose his name due to 'university regulations,' told CNN.

"Fortunately the incident did not spoil the event. The auditorium was full, with nearly 500 people present, of whom just one misbehaved," a the spokesman said. "At no stage was there any serious threat to the Premier, or anyone else."

The Chinese government could not be immediately reached for comment.

The incident occurred while Wen, on a three day visit to the UK to strengthen economic ties, was speaking about China's role amid the global economic recession.

On Sunday, several hundred Tibetan activists had demonstrated outside the Chinese Embassy Sunday to protest his visit to London.

China has long been criticized by the international community for its human rights record in Tibet, where many Tibetans are pushing for greater autonomy and religious freedom.


Monday's shoe-throwing incident is the second of its kind in less than two months.

In December, an Iraqi journalist narrowly missed striking then-U.S. President George W. Bush with both his shoes during a news conference in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit.

Sony Profits continue to decline

41% Music Decline Helps Sony Profits Fall 95%

SonySony posted a whopping 95% decrease in profits last quarter compared to the same quarter last year. Gaming was was the biggest disappointment down 97%, but music did its part to contribute to the downward spiral.  Even when factoring out the expensive purchase of BMG's half of the former Sony BMG,music profits declined 41% driven by a 22% decrease in sales.

Sony has avoided the recent wholesale staff cuts made by other labels favoring more targeted layoffs. But as losses mount and the world economy worsens, sources hint that Sony's layoff scalpel could become a hatchet.

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How Social Media can help business

Web 2.0 grows up - how social media can help business

Social Media - bringing people together

Social Media - bringing people together

Social media appears to be growing up. The Financial Times ran a special report on Digital Business this week with a lead headline that said it all, “Business starts to take Web 2.0 tools seriously”. Jessica Twentyman’s article highlighted how, “far from being frivolous distractions, social networking tools can help streamline processes”.

Certainly social media has had an image problem since it was born. Days didn’t go by without reports of people being caught out and embarrassed by what people posted on YouTube, Facebook, Bebo and MySpace. Naturally this only tarnished and held back the potential of social media amongst business decision makers who had the power to harness this new form of communication. Some employers went as far as banning staff from using social media tools in and out of office time. Their concern was that what their employees got up to out of office hours could damage the reputation and image of their business. I know of one top law firm that has banned employees from using social sites.

But while some businesses were paranoid in the early days about the damage to their reputation by the out-of-office activities of their employees others were busy finding ways to use social media to further develop their brands. These businesses were keen to enter into a dialogue with the public, working to make them customers. And this is not an easy exercise as the general public is more cynical than ever before.

Rightly so, business wants to see how “Enterprise 2.0 could deliver real business benefits”. Translating this corporate-speak into plain English, this means finding how social media can help increase sales.

But there is another cultural problem, currently too many companies in Britain and around the world still see the internet as an add-on to their business models. Stubborn scepticism amongst businesses leaders, who do not understand the purpose or reason for entering into a dialogue with the public, prevents them for investing into this not so new communication tool and channel.

The equally sad truth is that too many large communications consultancies also see social media as an add-on to the communications plans that they develop for clients. I have on too many occasions the “we’ll develop a Facebook page for you” only to see nothing new or engaging. Equally, the blogs that have developed for clients lack real dialogue between the business and the consumer, let it be b2b or b2c.

At a recent P2PR meet in London a number of us agreed that there is a lack of upward education from communications consultancies to clients about the potential of social media. Having Facebook, YouTube or MySpace pages just isn’t enough. Even setting up a Twitter account doesn’t make the difference while these are add-ons to clients communication strategies and campaigns.

Social media is about listening to the public and entering into a dialogue with them. And these dialogues have to be regular, refreshing and rewarding. It is about making the client a friend of the consumer and working to helping them become a close friend, who celebrates with you the relationship that you have with them. And how many of us hate it when we don’t hear from friends for some time. The same applies to social media in business, dialogues have to be constant and creative, bringing in your customers into the business and making them feel part of the experience. This is how you develop loyalty, or, saying it in corporate-speak ‘brand-loyalty’, which is what all businesses strive for.

Social media is changing. It is growing up and it needs to be at the centre of communications planning, to develop the brand and protect the company. This obviously has a cost, but the rewards are for the long-term. Businesses decision makers might think that they can only invest in social media if the metrics tell them that their interaction with clients leads to increase sales, the thinking that has driven adverting for decades. Well, social media can be measured and communications consultancies can no longer get away with not offering this service to clients.

Wired's front cover


And as social media grows up, we should be aware that the technology is moving our communication thinking forward, ahead of the game. While in Hong Kong in January this year I picked up a copy of Wired magazine, which lead with “Inside the GPS Revolution” an insight into how mobile smart phone technology is transforming how users “make connections and interact with the world.” And these interactions are not just with friends but with businesses as well. One of their reviews was for Shop-Savvy, a tool that will help you scan a barcode with a phonecam ad tells you how much the product not just costs online but in shops nearby. It can also pull up reviews to make sure you are not skimping a little too much.

The technology is here. It is driving business decision-making and driving pricing. Shouldn’t we be bringing in social media into the centre of communications planning? Is having a branded Facebook page enough?

Adidas's Facebook page


I’ll tell you something, I’m on Facebook and I am a fan of Adidas. I signed up to their Facebook page some time ago, hoping to get updates from the company. I didn’t get anything. There was little dialogue from them, until I got a message telling me how they’d had a ‘secret party and I could see the ‘cool’ pictures of what looked like a celebrity bash somewhere. Erm, I signed up online so that I could be one of the first. That message they sent didn’t bring me in to the brand and it did not make me feel closer. It was not the social media experience that consumers should be subjected to. Adidas, in my mind, doesn’t get it right. Will the rest of business understand it?

It is up to us PR and communications consultants to champion social media. Communication helps and in these challenging times we have to be creative and use new tools for us and the benefit of our clients.

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20 ways to tell you're a grumpy old man at a gig

20 ways to tell you’re a grumpy old man at a gig

January 28, 2009 by Stuart

grump-1Remember how you used to go to hundreds of gigs as a lithe young twentysomething, full of the joys of live music? And cider’n'black, obviously.

Well, you’re not young any more. Your membership of The Kids expired many years ago. And if you need more proof, here’s 20 ways to tell you’re an old man at a gig:

1. Your default gigging pose is ‘arms folded, pint in hand’.

2. You tut when someone stagedives.

3. You cried at the Pixies comeback gigs (especially when you realised the t-shirt stall stocked XL size).

4. Your pre-gig routine is all about finding somewhere to eat, not somewhere to drink.

5. Your last seven gigs were at The O2.

6. You have a special gigging outfit, which you wear to every concert. It has no neon elements.

7. You didn’t need the free earplugs at last year’s My Bloody Valentine gigs - you always take your own nowadays.

8. You’ve ever uttered the phrase “Well, they’re no Gene…” while watching a hotly-tipped new band.

9. You think the band has aged well. Actually, it’s just that your eyesight has aged badly.

10. You worry for the health of the manic kids in the moshpit. Mainly because several of them are yours.

11. Your man-boobs have forced you to stop pogoing in built-up areas.

12. It’s too crowded in here! However crowded it is.

13. You’re able to get from the standing section of Brixton Academy, to the cloakroom to collect your coat, to the bar for one last pint, and back during the time a band is offstage before the encore. You’ve even timed it.

14. Every gig you’ve seen in the last year was a comeback tour.

15. You fear for the fertility of young bands wearing ultra-skinny jeans.

16. You are genuinely excited about Springsteen headlining Glasto.

17. The gig is ruined if another old man stands in your special place before you get there.

18. Cameraphones should be confiscated at the door, people should concentrate on the music…

19. You don’t scoff at the idea of an all-seater gig.

20. If you like the support act, you buy their CD the next day (rather than BitTorrent it).

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Post-pub Kebabs are extremely bad for you!

Post-Pub Kebabs Add 1000 Calories

Doner kebabs in the UK have been found to contain the equivalent fat to drinking more than one and a half wine glasses of cooking oil. Skip related content

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Post-Pub Kebabs Add 1000 Calories

A nationwide sample of the nutritional content of the takeaway meal found the average doner also contained close to an adult's entire daily recommended intake of salt.

Before adding salad and sauce the average kebab contained 1,000 calories but researchers found some with 1,990.

Last year food scientists tested a doner kebab containing 140g of fat - twice the amount a woman should eat in a day.

This was said to be the calorific equivalent to drinking a wine glass full of cooking oil.

The most gut busting kebabs in this latest study provide 346% of a woman's saturated fat intake, close to drinking two wine glasses of cooking oil.

Given that 60% of kebabs have been found to contain cholesterol raising trans fats, fans of the takeaway could be risking their health.

Another big finding was that 35% of the meat sent to kebab shops listed a different meat species than was actually contained.

Six kebabs were found to include pork when it was not listed as an ingredient, two of which were described as Halal - which Muslims are permitted to eat.

Christopher Baylis told Sky News Lacors want to make sure everyone is given the right information.

"The labelling is on the kebabs when they come from the manufacturers. It is bad not to convey exactly what is in the kebab," he said.

The minute weight difference between a small and large kebab is also a problem, said Chairman of Lacors, councillor Geoffrey Theobald.

"With obesity rates rising so rapidly in the UK, portion size is as important as what is being consumed.

"Reducing portion size is an easy and cost-effective way for small businesses to help people eat sensibly," he said

The study sampled 494 kebabs from 76 councils and found that the calorie count varied up and down the country.

The average kebab in the North West of England contained 1,101 calories while in Scotland it was 1,084, in Wales 1,055 and 1,066 in south-west England.

The lowest calorie kebabs can be found in Northern Ireland where the snack weighed in at an average of 843.

AFC Wimbledon cruise to the top!

Wimbledon confirmed their position at the top of the table as they beat rivals Chelmsford City 3 – 1, in a match played before a record crowd of 4690 with a couple of hundred more fans unfortunately locked out for safety reasons. The hero was once again Jon Main, who scored in the 18th and 28th minutes to put the Dons two goals ahead by half time. The visitors raised their game early in the second half and although they enjoyed a lot of possession, they rarely threatened James Pullen’s goal. However, they did pull a goal back after 64 minutes when Kevin James bundled the ball home following a free kick out on the left. The Dons wrapped up the points a minute from time when Tom Davis passed the ball home following an earlier miss from Sam Hatton from about the same position. Terry Brown was delighted with the result. “I am of course very pleased that after a number of reverses against Chelmsford in our last few matches we were able to come out on top and secure the three points. “As I said before the match, there are still 45 points to play for and a lot more work to be done before the end of the season. I thought Chelmsford played well at times and enjoyed a lot of possession. However, when you have a strike force of Jon Main and Danny Kedwell they are always likely to get you goals, and today Jon scored two more to maintain the incredible record he has set since the start of the New Year. “I thought our defence was again sound with Ben Judge and Jason Goodliffe providing a difficult barrier to breach, and it was a very encouraging debut by full-back Andy Sambrook. “The boys will have Tuesday night off to give them a rest after a run of three games in eight days, before preparing for the visit to St Albans where I am sure we will again have a difficult match.”

Virgin Complaint letter - hilarious!


Still love this Heineken viral

Heineken Beer Fridge Freakout

Do giddy guys make you want to get your suds on?

YouTube BrandWatch invites you to vote on how Heineken’s brand fares from this high-culture/low-culture mash-up in a recent Dutch-language ad.

Name: Heineken Walk-In Fridge
Stats: We're just two weeks into 2009, but there's already a runaway viral hit on YouTube. It's in Dutch, but that's no matter. Posted to YouTube in the final days of December, the ad (it`s been posted over 60 times) has already generated over 2 million viewings and over 1,400 comments. The one we include here has collected almost 1.5 million views and over 1,200 text comments.
What you see: A smartly dressed woman proudly shows her three girlfriends around her spacious new home. First we see a commodious lounge, then the bedroom, and, finally, she opens a door leading into a massive walk-in closet. Cue high-pitched squeals of female delight. But the glee is cut short. We hear an even bigger roar coming from another part of the house. It's unmistakably male. Cut to the proud male showing his pals the walk-in fridge, stacked floor to ceiling with Heinekens. His jubilant buddies drown out the ladies with their hoots and howls.
Takeout/Takeaway: Already more than 430 bloggers have been buzzing about this ad in just the past two weeks, pretty impressive when you consider the actors are speaking Dutch, a tip-off it's playing in Heineken's home market first. The online buzz will no doubt precede the ad when/if it hits the English-speaking airwaves.
Social Media Effect: Humorous beer ads from years past—think Budweiser's ”Wazzup!”— are a huge hit on YouTube, still discussed actively today by nostalgic fans. Heineken may have just moved into the unofficial "funniest ever" debate with this one. They may not even need to translate it from Dutch.

YouTube BrandWatch is The Big Money's exploration into how the world's best-known businesses, so adept at managing their images offline, are being perceived online, where control is harder to come by. Every week, The Big Money features a corporate-themed video that's had significant viewership on YouTube: some approved, some unapproved, some mashed-up combinations of the two. And we'll ask our readers to vote on how the video affects the brands. We think the responses will surprise you, and provide a window onto what is fast becoming the most important playground for corporate games. (Note: This feature has no official relationship to YouTube or its owner, Google.)

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Interesting article on 'Blog Rap'

Scene and heard: Blog rap

Kid Cudi

Top of the blogs ... Kid Cudi was one of the most talked-about rappers of last year

To make it big in hip-hop, you don't need to cruise around selling mixtapes from your car boot, invent an elaborate story about a torturous jail stint (which is later exposed as a sham), put out cigarettes on your torso to make it look like you have bullet wounds or offer to give Dr Dre regular foot massages with baby oil (although the latter may help). No, all you need to do is hire a good online PR who is willing to bombard music bloggers with your tracks 200 times a day until they are forced to give in and post up your torpid rhymes and tinny beats.

Currently, if Mickey Factz so much as passes wind, I will get emails from a dozen online pluggers and PRs offering me audio of the event and a phone interview about the fallout (literally) of what happened. I'll then get a few dozen music bloggers emailing to inform me that their blog has been updated with said "exclusive" gossip.

Within a few months of exposure like this, it will look like the internet is "buzzing" with excitement about you and major label A&Rs, who are generally pretty naïve, will believe the hype and fall over themselves to sign you.

Case in point: Wale. The unremarkable Washington native came out of nowhere to become one of the most talked-about rappers on music blogs in 2007. He is now signed to Interscope and his forthcoming album apparently features Kanye West, Mark Ronson and Justice.

If you listen to UK commercial radio, you will probably have heard him on the new single by Aussie crooner Daniel Merriweather (who, according to Willber Willberforce, deputy head of programmes at BBC 1Xtra, is the guy to look out for in 2009. Or, for people with sense organs, he is an uglier Daniel Bedingfield doing a bad karaoke impression of Terence Trent D'Arby. I digress.)

Other blog-hyped rappers who have been picked up by majors include Pac Div (Universal), Charles Hamilton (Interscope) and B.O.B. (Atlantic).

These labels all think they've discovered the new Kanye West. In reality, they've got guys whose fanbase consists largely of people who spend all day uploading these artists' music, and would rather search for 14 hours for a 64 kbps MP3 of a song than pay 79p for it.

Heck, even Kanye West thinks he's found the new Kanye West. The egotistical rap superstar recently signed Cleveland, Ohio-born rapper Kid Cudi, whose Day 'N' Night single was easily one of the most talked-about hip-hop songs on music blogs last year.

The collective term for this online scene is "blog rap": rappers who make it big on the blogs and not on "da streetz". They embrace every possible means of communication on the internet. They have MySpace and Facebook pages, Twitter and Vimeo accounts and personal blogs. They spend all weekend leaving fawning praise for themselves on internet forums. I wouldn't even be surprised to find them appealing for fans on dating sites. Once they're signed, this bombardment of news, MP3s and videos gets worse because they now have a whole team to do this for them.

Your average music blog news fare obviously isn't good enough for some of these rappers, though. Last week, blog rap poster boy and recent SRC Records signee Asher Roth (internet hype: "the new Eminem") was reported to have been involved in the mid-air subduing of a suspected terrorist on a domestic flight to Los Angeles. As PR opportunities go, it really doesn't get much better than that.

Look out for the exclusive comedy video reconstruction coming soon to thousands and thousands of music blogs all over the world.

Should modern musicians use Twitter to promote themselves?

Don’t force bands to Twitter, says EMI’s Ondrejka

As senior VP of digital strategy at major label EMI, much of Cory Ondrejka’s job involves finding new ways for bands to engage with their fans online. However, it seems there’s no question of artists being forced to get all Web 2.0 against their will.

“If you’re a band, you’re using Twitter because, y’know what, it’s really kinda fun giving your fans this blow-by-blow account of getting to the stage, or your bus breaking down in a snowstorm,” he told us at MidemNet this week.

“Sharing stories is what builds communities, and for some artists that is really enjoyable. But if Twittering is work for you, maybe you should have someone else doing it for you. And that’s okay.”

Indeed, he says the question of whether or not bands should be on Twitter reminds him of being asked about Second Life, in his previous job as CTO at Linden Lab.

“People would ask if they should use Second Life or what they should be doing, and I always said they should do Second Life if it was making some part of their life better,” he says. “Is it making your job easier, your studies easier, your social life better or your leisure time more fun? I don’t really care what the reason is, but use it because it’s making something more fun in your life, not because I told you to.”

However, Ondrejka says he’s lucky to have a number of artists at EMI who are keen to get their hands dirty with new web technologies and tools, in order to engage more directly and regularly with their fans.

“If you’re building something to help artists who blog to fans, and from the very beginning you can build it with artists who are blogging to fans, guess what? You’re going to build a better product, the fans are going to get something better, and the artists are going to have more fun. We’re very fortunate to have artists at every level who are excited about different technologies, and want to explore them.”

Our full interview with Cory Ondrejka will be published in this week’s Music Ally Report on Thursday. For a free trial subscription, click here

Groove Armada embrace Social Media

Groove Armada reveals sharing plans for Bacardi digital EP

Groove Armada announced its plans for digital distribution of its upcoming EP, which is being released through a partnership with Bacardi. And it definitely is a new idea. The EP will be sold on regular download stores from March 2, but there is also be a dedicated website, B-LIVE Share, which is up and running now.

You can download the EP’s first track for free, but to get the second one you have to share it with 20 friends, via email or a Facebook widget. To get the third track, you have to reach 200 shares of track one, and to get track four, you need 2,000 shares - although downloads from friends of your friends (and friends of your friends of your friends) count towards your total too.

We love the idea and the implementation. we’re just hoping we love the tunes now. The promotion only runs for 40 days, though - it ends when the EP goes on proper sale, and people with the highest share-counts locally and globally will get prizes. If you want to give it a try (while giving our share-count a bump), click here. Meanwhile, B-LIVE appears to be a Bacardi thing rather than just a Groove Armada thing, raising the prospect that other artists could distribute music through it too.

Oh, there’s also an embeddable widget too, see below:

stu has shared an exclusive Groove Armada track with 0 people on B-Live Share

Get the track for yourself and start sharing

London goes 'Cosmic Disco' crazy

It came from outer space

Take a recession, add the freedom of the internet, and get a DJ to stir at varying speeds. Jude Rogers finds the recipe for cosmic disco

Down a dark road in the south London district of Vauxhall stands the Eagle, a gay pub with blackened windows, where a bearded bouncer bares his teeth at the door. "This is Horse Meat Disco, love," he grins, ushering me inside, and suddenly my world turns from black-and-white to Technicolor. Here are giant glitterballs, smily faces dusted with sparkles, and a dancefloor full of men, women and transsexuals dancing to Ennio Morricone's theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is being slowed down to a trudge, then speeded up until it's a series of shimmering sounds. The Eagle may not be Studio 54, but what is happening here is an illustration of what is happening to disco in the 21st century.

Thirty years ago, club culture was all about disco. In 2009, an offshoot of the genre is spiking in popularity. This is "cosmic disco", a slower, more eclectic style of music named after a cult Italian nightclub, called Cosmic, which was open from 1979 to 1984. The DJs who pioneered it - among them Daniele Baldelli, Beppe Loda and Claudio "Mozart" Rispoli - played whatever took their fancy, mixing up melodies from soundtracks, Krautrock, funk, reggae, African pop, electronic and modern classical records over a disco beat. And they did so however it took their fancy, often deliberately playing records at the wrong speed. In the 1980s, the cosmic style barely left Italy, but today it is growing in popularity in both gay and straight clubs in Britain, inspiring new DJs here and abroad, and producing a wealth of compilation albums and mixes.

But why is cosmic disco hitting a nerve now? Bill Brewster, founder of DJHistory.com and author of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: A History of the DJ, has a theory. He has watched cosmic disco grow in popularity over the last decade, since turntablists such as DJ Harvey started making new, cosmic-inspired mixes and artists such as Lindstrøm started making new music inspired by its eclecticism. Having seen virtual communities set up forums and mp3 blogs about it, Brewster believes it is the first real internet dance phenomenon.

"Crate-digging for new tracks is done virtually now, by DJs, amateurs and clubbers themselves," he says. "And as cosmic disco is all about mixing together strange tracks over a disco beat, the internet provides a massive pool of resources. It also makes it much easier to find music released in other countries outside the UK and the US, and cast your net wider."

The eclectic nature of cosmic disco also reflects the way mp3 players have changed our relationship with music and made us more open minded, says Simon Ashton, one of the Manchester-based DJs behind the mp3 blog and website CosmicDisco.co.uk. He refers to this development as an effect of shuffle culture: "I really believe that the iPod shuffle feature had a huge effect on listening habits, and people no longer accept a programmed playlist. This has enabled DJs such as ourselves to navigate through different styles, and open people's ears to unfamiliar music."

But in the last decade, the popularity of mash-ups, bootlegs and Balearic music could also be said to be an effect of this shuffle culture, so what makes cosmic disco different? Firstly, there is the way it relies on the futuristic gleam of synthesiser melodies, but more important is the four-on-the-floor kick drum that dictates its rhythm, giving DJs a solid base upon which they can experiment.

Brewster has another theory, this time concerning why disco becomes popular in particular times. "Cosmic disco is popular now because of the recession, definitely. Disco originally exploded during a recession, and escapist music really flourishes when people want to go out and forget about things."

He also believes minimal house and techno, the stripped-down, cerebral music that has dominated club culture in the last decade, has alienated people who want their nights out to be full of fun and joy rather than elitist one-upmanship. That's reflected, too, in the way people are also turning away from big name DJs in state-of-the art clubs and returning to small venues, and looking at club culture's roots in the late 1970s for new inspirations.

Lindstrøm, the Norwegian DJ, producer and composer whose first solo album, Where I Go You Too, was released in 2007, also believes DJs and clubbers are less hung up about fashions that they used to be, especially when he considers how unfashionable disco was when he started making music. "Five years ago, people told me that disco was a no-word. Now, there is far less worry about cool, and DJs care far less about how they are perceived." He refers to his sometime collaborator, Prins Thomas, and artists such as DiskJokke, and suggests they make music inspired by the original disco period because it was all about sounds that were weird, wonderful and fun.

This is where clubbing fits into a wider trend for old-fashioned fun. Look at the TV listings: the biggest hit shows, the likes of Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor, are versions of old variety formats that used to dominate Saturday night TV. "Look at the world we live in now," says the cultural commentator Jon Savage. "Light entertainment is king again, and rock music has become incredibly static. Looking back 25 years could just be about the cyclical nature of pop nostalgia, but I think it's about people looking back to a brilliantly hedonistic, fusion moment for music, and wanting to be part of that. The more stuff they find, the better things will be."

And so the 21st-century incarnation of cosmic disco is slowly moving towards the mainstream from its original home in gay clubs. The Horse Meat Disco DJs brought together mixed crowds at The Big Chill and Bestival, for instance, and many fashionable clubs are incorporating cosmic disco into their nights, and including the word "cosmic" in the names to gather in the punters.

But what do the original Cosmic DJs think of the revival? Daniele Baldelli, who headlined Horse Meat Disco's New Years Eve and New Year's Day parties, and last year released the mix album Cosmic Disco? Cosmic Rock! with Marco Dionigi, is boggled by it all. Still, he has one idea: that people might be interested in the original Cosmic DJs because of their naivety, as well as their playfulness.

Italy, he says, is the forgotten part of this story. "Because in Italy, our music has no roots in rock or funk - it is all about opera and lyrics. So DJs like me only listened to music from other countries in terms of sounds, rather than words." This, he explains, is why DJs like him never worried about changing the pitch and speed of records. As they couldn't understand what was being sung, they simply considered the voice to be another instrument, and played with its timbres and textures to make exciting new sounds.

He also thinks cosmic disco has risen again because people are bored of the compartmentalisation of dance music. "Dance music has become so split into tiny little things and cultures: house DJs, techno DJs, progressive DJs." He exhales with disdain, adding that DJs were a new a concept to him at the time, so he just played whatever records he wanted to. Perhaps, he concludes, people are fascinated today by the enthusiastic and innocent love of sounds that cosmic disco stands for, as well as the willingness of the original cosmic DJs to do anything to make people think, as well as dance.

And so 25 years after the original Cosmic club closed, is Baldelli happy that the spirit of such a long-forgotten place has survived? "I am because I am having my second life! The joy of mixing strange and wonderful tracks together, for everyone, is having its second life. And Cosmic is having its second life, too."

Diet Coke and Menthos - still the best viral ever!

Diet Coke + Mentos

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I'm seriously having second thoughts about swimming with dolphins

Swimming with dolphins is shit

This is not what its like

Ever since editing a piece about Dave Navarro swimming nude with dolphins in the Worst Issue Ever, I’ve always wondered what would it be like to rub my lithe, naked torso against the rubbery skin of the sea’s friendliest mammals. Last week I met a guy called Farik on a beach in Mauritius and he sold me a package tour that promised “Swimming with dolphins and barbecued lobster on an island,” so I signed up to it without thinking twice. Here’s what fucking happened.

Call me a total naïve idiot, but from Farik’s description of the package tour, I imagined I would be ferried effortlessly via limousine to a nearby exclusive cove whereupon I would dive into the crystal clear waters then be tossed aloft into the air by the thrust of a dolphin’s beak. The beast would make that clicking sound and we’d laugh and joke around while also developing a deeper understanding of ocean life. But it was nothing like that. In fact it was one of the most tawdry experiences of 2008. Dolphin Mural

Nasty dolphin mural

Let this act as a warning to anybody foolish enough to sign up for one of these things. What happens when you sign up (which costs about £250), is that you have to be in the lobby of your hotel for 7.30AM then wait for 30 minutes for a monosyllabic Mauritian guy to bundle you into the back of a mini-bus that smelled of whatever the bus driver had eaten for dinner the night before (quite spicy), along with 16 half-asleep strangers. They ranged from a South African family, to some French old age pensioners, to a really grumpy rotund English woman and her boyfriend.

On arrival at our destination were shunted onto a beach where we had to hand over more money (£50) to a gang of shady looking guys who had a catamaran that was connected to the beach by a rusted, broken gangway that had almost completely collapsed in the middle. There were flies everywhere. Eventually we took our place on a catarman that smelled strongly of piss and had more files buzzing around it than the beach.

My girlfriend Maggie and I took our places, squashed up against the rear of the boat next to two 60 year-old-ginger haired twin sisters from France and their husband. A South African family with two small children joined us and then a gang of five drunken French gentlemen in their mid-20s wearing cowboy hats turned up with two black girls wearing thongs and cowboy hats. It soon transpired that the girls were hookers, hired by the French guys for their friend’s birthday, which I thought was a very nice gesture, even if it sat a little uncomfortably among the toddlers, old age pensioners and “swimming with dolphins” vibes that we’d gone in for. Spot The Hooker

Spot the hooker

The French guys looked like they’d been doing coke all night, all jittery and chain smoking. One of the hookers could barely stand up and so spent the whole time alternating between rubbing the French guy’s thigh while lying down and listening to Mauritian R&B on her mobile phone. It sounded very tinny. Very tinny and very fucking soul destroying and so I begged the small kid who was working the bar to give me beer upon beer and when he was distracted I stole a bottle of rum and put it in Maggie’s bag. I must have drunk half of it in 30 minutes.

After our fellow passengers had finished eating the cut up baguettes covered with cheap jam that was our “all inclusive breakfast” we set off, very slowly to go and swim with dolphins. About an hour into it, and with a very loud soundtrack CD of Crazy Frog and Mauritiun R&B we slowed down and were told that “Here are ze dolphins” by our captain, a jheri-curled man with blue contact lenses in that gave him the appearance of somebody who plays in a Prodigy tribute act.

The BanquetThe Banquet

Sound SystemThe Sound System

For ten minutes we saw some dolphins 800 metres away before sailing for what seemed like three hours aimlessly around an island while the captain played, very loudly, songs by Christina Milian, 50 Cent and, again, Crazy Frog. Staggering to the downstairs toilet, which naturally was full to the brim with other people’s piss and was surrounded by a halo of flies, I cut my foot open on a broken wine glass, slipped over and cut my head open on the metal rigging.

By now I was too drunk to care any more. I wasn’t even that upset about the fact that there was no “Island visit with lobster dinner” as promised. Instead a small child brought a plastic bucket of chicken out from a cupboard by the toilet and the captian cooked it until burned to a crisp on a portable barbecue. The French guys and the hookers loved it and managed to polish it most of it themselves.

During the chicken dinner, we stopped for a while so I jumped off the side of the boat for a swim, cutting my chest open on a jagged lump of coral. I pulled myself back up onto the boat and sat there, bleeding from chest, head and foot while downing a half pint of warm rum and Sprit.

It would be three more hours of this shit before we made it back to shore.

Made it back home

'Made In Queens' Trailer



Thinking that Fundable is a really unique idea: http://www.fundable.com/

Great article on true fans!

1,000 True Fans

The long tail is famously good news for two classes of people; a few lucky aggregators, such as Amazon and Netflix, and 6 billion consumers. Of those two, I think consumers earn the greater reward from the wealth hidden in infinite niches.

But the long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices. Unless artists become a large aggregator of other artist's works, the long tail offers no path out of the quiet doldrums of minuscule sales.

Other than aim for a blockbuster hit, what can an artist do to escape the long tail?

One solution is to find 1,000 True Fans. While some artists have discovered this path without calling it that, I think it is worth trying to formalize. The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.


To raise your sales out of the flatline of the long tail you need to connect with your True Fans directly. Another way to state this is, you need to convert a thousand Lesser Fans into a thousand True Fans.

Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day's wages per year in support of what you do. That "one-day-wage" is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let's peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.

The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. Maybe they come to your house concerts, or they are buying your DVDs from your website, or they order your prints from Pictopia. As much as possible you retain the full amount of their support. You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.

The technologies of connection and small-time manufacturing make this circle possible. Blogs and RSS feeds trickle out news, and upcoming appearances or new works. Web sites host galleries of your past work, archives of biographical information, and catalogs of paraphernalia. Diskmakers, Blurb, rapid prototyping shops, Myspace, Facebook, and the entire digital domain all conspire to make duplication and dissemination in small quantities fast, cheap and easy. You don't need a million fans to justify producing something new. A mere one thousand is sufficient.

This small circle of diehard fans, which can provide you with a living, is surrounded by concentric circles of Lesser Fans. These folks will not purchase everything you do, and may not seek out direct contact, but they will buy much of what you produce. The processes you develop to feed your True Fans will also nurture Lesser Fans. As you acquire new True Fans, you can also add many more Lesser Fans. If you keep going, you may indeed end up with millions of fans and reach a hit. I don't know of any creator who is not interested in having a million fans.

But the point of this strategy is to say that you don't need a hit to survive. You don't need to aim for the short head of best-sellerdom to escape the long tail. There is a place in the middle, that is not very far away from the tail, where you can at least make a living. That mid-way haven is called 1,000 True Fans. It is an alternate destination for an artist to aim for.

Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans. It's a much saner destination to hope for. You make a living instead of a fortune. You are surrounded not by fad and fashionable infatuation, but by True Fans. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

A few caveats. This formula - one thousand direct True Fans -- is crafted for one person, the solo artist. What happens in a duet, or quartet, or movie crew? Obviously, you'll need more fans. But the additional fans you'll need are in direct geometric proportion to the increase of your creative group. In other words, if you increase your group size by 33%, you need add only 33% more fans. This linear growth is in contrast to the exponential growth by which many things in the digital domain inflate. I would not be surprise to find that the value of your True Fans network follows the standard network effects rule, and increases as the square of the number of Fans. As your True Fans connect with each other, they will more readily increase their average spending on your works. So while increasing the numbers of artists involved in creation increases the number of True Fans needed, the increase does not explode, but rises gently and in proportion.

A more important caution: Not every artist is cut out, or willing, to be a nurturer of fans. Many musicians just want to play music, or photographers just want to shoot, or painters paint, and they temperamentally don't want to deal with fans, especially True Fans. For these creatives, they need a mediator, a manager, a handler, an agent, a galleryist -- someone to manage their fans. Nonetheless, they can still aim for the same middle destination of 1,000 True Fans. They are just working in a duet.

Third distinction. Direct fans are best. The number of True Fans needed to make a living indirectly inflates fast, but not infinitely. Take blogging as an example. Because fan support for a blogger routes through advertising clicks (except in the occasional tip-jar), more fans are needed for a blogger to make a living. But while this moves the destination towards the left on the long tail curve, it is still far short of blockbuster territory. Same is true in book publishing. When you have corporations involved in taking the majority of the revenue for your work, then it takes many times more True Fans to support you. To the degree an author cultivates direct contact with his/her fans, the smaller the number needed.

Lastly, the actual number may vary depending on the media. Maybe it is 500 True Fans for a painter and 5,000 True Fans for a videomaker. The numbers must surely vary around the world. But in fact the actual number is not critical, because it cannot be determined except by attempting it. Once you are in that mode, the actual number will become evident. That will be the True Fan number that works for you. My formula may be off by an order of magnitude, but even so, its far less than a million.

I've been scouring the literature for any references to the True Fan number. Suck.com co-founder Carl Steadman had theory about microcelebrities. By his count, a microcelebrity was someone famous to 1,500 people. So those fifteen hundred would rave about you. As quoted by Danny O'Brien, "One person in every town in Britain likes your dumb online comic. That's enough to keep you in beers (or T-shirt sales) all year."

Others call this microcelebrity support micro-patronage, or distributed patronage.

In 1999 John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier published a model for this in First Monday, an online journal. They called it the Street Performer Protocol.

Using the logic of a street performer, the author goes directly to the readers before the book is published; perhaps even before the book is written. The author bypasses the publisher and makes a public statement on the order of: "When I get $100,000 in donations, I will release the next novel in this series." Readers can go to the author's Web site, see how much money has already been donated, and donate money to the cause of getting his novel out. Note that the author doesn't care who pays to get the next chapter out; nor does he care how many people read the book that didn't pay for it. He just cares that his $100,000 pot gets filled. When it does, he publishes the next book. In this case "publish" simply means "make available," not "bind and distribute through bookstores." The book is made available, free of charge, to everyone: those who paid for it and those who did not.

In 2004 author Lawrence Watt-Evans used this model to publish his newest novel. He asked his True Fans to collectively pay $100 per month. When he got $100 he posted the next chapter of the novel. The entire book was published online for his True Fans, and then later in paper for all his fans. He is now writing a second novel this way. He gets by on an estimated 200 True Fans because he also publishes in the traditional manner -- with advances from a publisher supported by thousands of Lesser Fans. Other authors who use fans to directly support their work are Diane Duane, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and Don Sakers. Game designer Greg Stolze employed a similar True Fan model to launch two pre-financed games. Fifty of his True Fans contributed seed money for his development costs.

The genius of the True Fan model is that the fans are able to move an artist away from the edges of the long tail to a degree larger than their numbers indicate. They can do this in three ways: by purchasing more per person, by spending directly so the creator keeps more per sale, and by enabling new models of support.

New models of support include micro-patronage. Another model is pre-financing the startup costs. Digital technology enables this fan support to take many shapes. Fundable is a web-based enterprise which allows anyone to raise a fixed amount of money for a project, while reassuring the backers the project will happen. Fundable withholds the money until the full amount is collected. They return the money if the minimum is not reached.


Here's an example from Fundable's site;

Amelia, a twenty-year-old classical soprano singer, pre-sold her first CD before entering a recording studio. "If I get $400 in pre-orders, I will be able to afford the rest [of the studio costs]," she told potential contributors. Fundable's all-or-nothing model ensured that none of her customers would lose money if she fell short of her goal. Amelia sold over $940 in albums.

A thousand dollars won't keep even a starving artist alive long, but with serious attention, a dedicated artist can do better with their True Fans. Jill Sobule, a musician who has nurtured a sizable following over many years of touring and recording, is doing well relying on her True Fans. Recently she decided to go to her fans to finance the $75,000 professional recording fees she needed for her next album. She has raised close to $50,000 so far. By directly supporting her via their patronage, the fans gain intimacy with their artist. According to the Associated Press:

Contributors can choose a level of pledges ranging from the $10 "unpolished rock," which earns them a free digital download of her disc when it's made, to the $10,000 "weapons-grade plutonium level," where she promises "you get to come and sing on my CD. Don't worry if you can't sing - we can fix that on our end." For a $5,000 contribution, Sobule said she'll perform a concert in the donor's house. The lower levels are more popular, where donors can earn things like an advanced copy of the CD, a mention in the liner notes and a T-shirt identifying them as a "junior executive producer" of the CD.

The usual alternative to making a living based on True Fans is poverty. A study as recently as 1995 showed that the accepted price of being an artist was large. Sociologist Ruth Towse surveyed artists in Britian and determined that on average they earned below poverty subsistence levels.

I am suggesting there is a home for creatives in between poverty and stardom. Somewhere lower than stratospheric bestsellerdom, but higher than the obscurity of the long tail. I don't know the actual true number, but I think a dedicated artist could cultivate 1,000 True Fans, and by their direct support using new technology, make an honest living. I'd love to hear from anyone who might have settled on such a path.