No More Money for Nothing

Record companies are not happy these days. CD sales are slumping. It is predicted that this will be the worst year in nearly three decades. Of course artists and record company executives will still make lots and lots of money. Obscene amounts of money. Just less obscene amounts.

Legal digital downloads are much less lucrative than CDs, especially because customers can download just the tracks they want. Band and artists can’t put out two or three really good tracks on a CD and expect to get the full whack for it.

And what’s got to really irritate the grey suits that are used to running the industry? Not listeners who file share, but bands who don’t need them any more. They have to wonder how many more bands like Arctic Monkeys are out there. We are in the midst of a serious paradigm shift.

And I didn’t mean to leave out file sharing altogether. Record companies weren’t so worried when file sharing was making a cassette copy of your vinyl, or even your CD, for a friend. Really, that’s all that’s happening now. The only difference is that people have a lot of friends, with the means to share with all of them, and they are completely unbounded by geography.

I think the record companies are eventually going to completely lose out on the file sharing argument. I’m not saying they have a valid position in intellectual property law, but what we have is a new way of thinking about intellectual property due to the realities of the information age.

It’s a bit like why am I going to buy Encarta when I can use (and even participate in) Wikipedia? Or newspaper websites that have tried to charge for the news – still trying to live in the age of the cover price. Most of the time, I can find someone else with the story for free. The Times recently revamped their website and tried to put the newspaper edition with all the stories behind a subscription. When I went to have a look just now to see how much a subscription to that edition is, I discovered that it is free again, even though they haven’t publicised this and you have to know which link to click on (BTW, it is the “Our Papers” link on the right-hand side of the top row of the menu).

Record companies executives are just going to have to come up with other ways of making money that are viable in the current marketplace. Otherwise, they are going to have to put up with less stratospheric salaries.

Veiled Justice

If you have the impression that Muslim women wearing the full veil are not in touch with the modern world, you would be wrong.

A woman serving on the jury of a murder trial has been arrested for listening to her MP3 player under her hijab, while the defendant was giving evidence. He was later found guilty. I can see that one going up on appeal. Can you say, “re-trial”?

It’s not like this woman wanted to be in court listening to her MP3 player. She avoided her first two summons to jury duty. She doesn’t have a job, so she tried to say she needed to go job hunting or go on a nursing course, for which she could provide no details. Then she kept arriving late to court during the trial, but the judge wouldn’t dismiss her. She doodled instead of reading the evidentiary documents handed to her and refuse to put them in the into the lever arch files provided to her.

The judge even thought he heard “tinny music” but decided it was his imagination, until another member of the jury finally complained.

The woman almost certainly faces prison if she is convicted. I have a had time imagining how she could not be convicted. The maximum sentence is indefinite imprisonment and an unlimited fine. I would expect that she would get at least several months.

Stringing Me Up

I stopped by a local music store this afternoon to purchase a guitar pick. It took the idea of Rip-off Britain to another level. A single Dunlop Tortex .60mm cost 80p ($1.60).

I’m sure there has been some inflation of plectrum prices since I left the States. The last price I remember paying for an identical pick was 45¢. May they are as much as 80¢ now and it is just another example of prices being the same figure in dollars as they are in pounds.

A set of 12-string strings starts at about £13 ($26). I found a set of Martin strings from an eBay shop in the States for $9.69 (£4.85) including international first class postage. The best price I found for the same thing from a British eBay shop was £7.70 ($15.40).

I looked at guitar prices and again I haven’t been in the market for a guitar for a long time, but I can’t imagine that some of the guitars I looked at were anywhere comparable to the price for the same instrument in the States. I played a Freshman cutaway six-string that had good action and an okay sound for £400. Surely this wasn’t an $800 guitar in the States. I would have said maybe $400, even though the body of it felt a bit plastic. Freshman assures me that it wasn’t, even though their guitars are made by cheap Southeast Asian labour and shipped to Scotland.

Music appears to be an expensive habit in this country.

Of the Making of Books

The first difficult aspect of writing a novel seems to be picking which “how to write a novel” book or books to buy. I had seen one at Waterstones and went back to refresh my memory of the title so I could look for it on Amazon. That was the easy part.

Once I got on Amazon, I found there were loads of others. All of them are claiming, of course, to be the best book on the subject. This, of course, undermined my faith in the first book, which was based entirely on the fact that I had seen it first.

It also caused my fragile confidence to waver anyhow, because if there are enough people to buy all of the “how to write a novel” books, there are an awful lot of people trying to do the same thing I’m doing. And chances are, I’m not better at it than they are. After all, the scramble for readership due to the Malthusian nature of the blogosphere is evidence of this.

Every time I go into a large bookstore I realise just how many books are on the market at any given time. These are the lucky ones – the ones that are not languishing manuscripts in the bottom of drawers or computer files in no need of a printer, or even half-formed ideas in somebody’s head. Most of the time they are not the ones that have been repeatedly returned with a rejection slip.

So I think why bother? After all, my mother thinks I should write short stories and my wife wonders why I’m not sending off more magazine articles. But then I’m not sure there’s any money in the former and it takes ages to the latter published for a very small sum in return. Sadly it seems no different than the music business. Everybody wants a break and so few are talented or lucky enough to get it.

It reminds me of the monthly “Jesus Jam Night” at the Sonshine Inn, the Christian coffee house where I used to be on staff. People would get up on stage all evening. Some were mediocre, some were worse. Many of them did Christian karaoke, using backing tracks to sing somebody else’s song, but not nearly as good. Occasionally a real talent would come along, but they were rare enough that even some of the mediocrity would get picked up for the regular rotation of artists and bands playing the coffee house. I’m evidence of that.

I was going to get back to researching my book, but in my head I’m still playing with some chord changes in my new worship song. Off I go – jack of all trades, master of none.

Adding to the Rotation

My two new Delirious? CDs got here today. I got their most recent studio release The Mission Bell (2005) and King of Fools (1998), the first release the produced under their current name. (Before then they were part-time musicians called The Cutting Edge Band, because they were the worship band for a youth outreach called Cutting Edge.) They are best known in the US market for the 1995 worship song “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”.

Having been very impressed with World Service (2003), I was hoping I would not be let down. Both CDs are very good. More depressingly excellent musicianship. I’m currently listening to the radio chart singles off of King of Fools. I listened to the whole thing, unaware of which tracks had made the UK single chart. Now I’m going back to see if they stand out among the others, because the whole album is impressive.

I don’t buy new music very often. I tend to play the same CDs in the car. Until I got World Service, for months I have rotated between The Best Worship Songs… Ever, Geoff Moore Greatest Hits, and Rich Mullins Songs. I don’t often find new music that’s worth buying. I will probably end up getting just about the entire Delirious? back catalogue.

Past My Mediocre Prime

I’ve been getting my guitar out for a few minutes over the last couple of day, limbering up the fingers for no particularly good reason. I had thought about taking it into school for the last week and maybe playing for some of my lessons. This worked well in one previous school, but given some of the groups I have right now, I sense the strong possibility of more than one Matthew 7:6 experience.

So I’ve just sat on the bed and played a few old tunes. I haven’t written anything new in years and years. After I was in Texas, I thought I would try to come up with a new worship number to send off to friends in Gonzales and to anyone else who might want it, but nothing has happened yet.

So I just strum away gently, mostly because I don’t even own a pick at the moment. Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have imagined the time when I was plectrum-free. But then I never would have imagine I would be where I am now.

For some reason, I browsed into the site of one the Christian music festivals happening around the UK this summer. They have links to the scheduled artists. I started at the bottom of the page and worked my way up. I clicked on one acoustic artist and listened to some of the stuff on her website. I was not impressed and thought maybe I’m not as bad as I always imagine (and usually confirm when I listen to old tapes) if she’s playing at that festival. Then I listened to a few more artists and bands and sure enough, I’m pretty crap by comparison.

Sometimes I think that if I could surround myself with some decent musicians, it might make some fairly decent songs sound fairly decent again. After all, I play some of my tunes and I can still hear The ad hoc Band in my head. I hear the drums and the lead guitar fills, rather than (or at least on top of) some sloppy rhythm work that reveals most of my 27 years of playing have been wasted.

But most of the time I think my day has passed and music is a young man’s game.

Bloc Voting

The Eurovision song contest is tonight. It’s like international pop idol that every country other than the UK takes seriously.   I think that’s because the UK actually has a music industry. We watched March of the Penguins instead.

Actually I forgot about it until I was watching the story of how the Frenchmen made peguin film. The acts had already performed and we watched the review of each one with the voting phone numbers at the bottom of the screen and the interval act while all the countries got their votes together and got ready for the video uplink to the studio of each national broadcaster with the announcement. Each country doles out a sort of proportional representation vote of 1-8, 10, and 12 points. This means that Andorra and Moldova get to hand out the same number of votes as the UK, France, Germany or Russia.

Terry Wogan always commentates for the BBC. He’s always a bit drunk. This makes it much more entertaining.

In recent years, it has become a matter of regional political block voting with talent having little to do with it. Since 2000, no Western European country has won. The winners have been Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, and this year Serbia. In addition to added national pride, the winner hosts the contest in the following year. They have the year to promote themselves as a tourist destination.

In 2003, with anger over ther invasion of Iraq and a really bad act, the UK got nul point. This year, we were saved from this fate by the loyalties of Ireland and Malta. You would think we would be considered honorary members of the Eastern bloc since half of it’s population lives here and supports the other half financially.

ad hoc Discovery

I’ve just come across an old cassette of a recording of my old band from Saturday, February 19, 1994. It was “unplugged” set because our drummer had another commitment that night.

Some of it is shockingly bad. On the other hand, some of it is quite good, especially for a band that had to struggle with the limits of my musicianship.

I heard songs I’d even forgotten that I had written. I have no idea how to even play them anymore. I was trying to imagine the chords in my head and some of them were there. I don’t know whether labouring over them for an extended time would re-establish pathways in my brain. I hate to lose them forever, even if I haven’t play some of them for nearly 13 years. The ad hoc Band dissolved in August 1994.

While digging in the same box, I also found a tape of the group in which our favourite areopagite served as drummer when I first met him 17 years ago. Their musicianship was better than the ad hoc Band, but then they weren’t burdened with a certain rhythm guitarist.

The Impact of a Good Teacher

I was browsing my hometown newspaper online, which currently features an article about my childhood piano teacher. She is now 88 years old and still teaching. I never knew she had such an eventful life.

Some people don’t know that the piano was my first instrument. I suppose these days some people don’t even know the guitar was my second. I wrote my first songs on the piano and it was my background playing the piano allowed me to teach myself the guitar.

I was never a good pianist. I didn’t practice enough. I didn’t want it enough. I gave it up after three years. Mrs Willman could have made me much better had I been willing.

My parents even bought a huge set of classical music books in the expectation I would be willing. As a major bibliographic investment, these didn’t prove as valuable as the sets of World Books I had received a few years before. I only ever played a handful of pieces other than some in the final couple of volumes, which contained modern music, including my mother’s favourite, “Moon River”.

But I still carried what I did learn with me. So I suppose that in every music incarnation I’ve experienced, as worship leaders, solo artist, band frontman, and in every song that I’ve written, there’s a bit of Mrs Willman.

Expensive Nostalgia

Checking my Wikipedia watchlist, I found out that Barry McGuire has apparently gotten the rights to To The Bride, his 1975 live album with 2nd Chapter of Acts and a band called David, because he has it available as a CD. Unfortunately, he has priced it at $30.00 (plus $5.00 postage), which is a bit higher than I value nostalgia. I would probably pay half that much.

I have owned the LPs for some time, but I haven’t been able to get them copied onto either cassette or CD. I thought the school had that facility, but I later discovered that it doesn’t. I’ve not come up with any other options. I had originally wanted to use the song “I Walked a Mile” in my Year 9 unit on suffering. The lack of attentiveness to almost anything I have played for them means it really isn’t worth the effort to get it copied.

On a related note, the home page of Barry’s website features a YouTube video that uses “Eve of Destruction” as the background music for a presentation of the “these really must be the last days” view, complete with shots of a Bible open to the Revelation. He also links to another YouTube video which uses “Callin’ Me Home” over landscape shots. It uses the studio version from “Lighten Up” rather than the live version I prefer, but it is still a beautiful song.


I’m glad to say that my Wikipedia article on “a band called David” has been restored.

I convinced the administrator who deleted it that they met the criteria of a “notable band”. I also Googled and found out what the original drummer Gene Gunnels is doing now.

As I have mentioned before, How the West Was One was one of the first contemporary Christian albums I owned. It still makes a regular spin in my car CD player, 28 years after bought the cassettes. For some reason, Gene’s work on the ride cymbal on the opening track “Hey Whatcha’ Say” during the lyric “Not in my life / Not in my life / Not in my life” and at the end of the song is still a foundational memory that I re-live each time I hear it. It is again the ride cymbal that comes at 13:50 on the Phil Keaggy song “Rejoice” that I always notice as the Keaggy/Souther duet fills out to a full band jam for the last two and a half minutes of the first disc.

Definitely notable music.

All is Quiet on the Inner City Front

Ok, so it’s the small Midlands city front, but why waste a chance to drop in a Bruce Cockburn line?

WordPress may not be the best platform for someone who is borderline OCD. With Blogger, I was blissful unaware that no one was reading my drivel. Now I have stats. I’m constantly checking the stats. Does my public love me?

For some reason, after riding uncharacteristically high, I’ve hit a dip today. This is despite the fact that in between marking Year 9 exams, I’ve put a lot of stuff out there trying to get you tag surfers (and you know who you are, even if I don’t) to click on over.

I could try hiding some stuff under the “More” tag to entice you. Hmm…. Sex? Right-wing politics? Left-wing politics? Devotional content? (I’m still reading Job and Fr Pat’s commentary.) History? (It is the 424th anniversary of the Papal bull Inter gravissimas – the object of derision by Orthodox Christian ever since and the 203rd anniversary of Marbury v. Madison, the bane of Presidents and Congresses ever since.) Humour? (Or maybe I can get more American readers if I write it “Humor”.) Britney Spears? I could be the 4 millionth blog to put up a picture of Bald Britney, or even one with her head shaved. What is it you people want?

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Never in Blue Jeans

Thanks to a single mention in a post by Laura Nee a few days ago, I have been listening to Neil Diamond all week. When I’m not listening to CDs (or CDs ripped to PCs), I’ve been singing or humming or whistling “Forever in Blue Jeans”. I don’t know why. I hardly ever wear blue jeans. Almost never.

Unlike Laura, I didn’t grow up listening to Neil Diamond. Other than Christian music, about the only artist I listened to in my childhood was John Denver. My father was the general manager of the local radio station and put all the John Denver singles on a cassette tape for me, back when commercially produced cassettes were not generally available (yes, that long ago). However, the first “secular” tape I purchased was The Jazz Singer soundtrack. It was the one rogue tape in a case full of Keith Green, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy, and Barry McGuire. I even got the sheet music and learned to play “Love on the Rocks” on the piano.

A few years later a friend in college taped off Twelve Greatest Hits Vol. II. That kept me going until I was seconded to Texarkana in 1985 to work on a Congressional campaign. Living on my own for the first time (albeit just for a couple of months) I bought a cassette stereo. Needing something to play on it, I went into a record shop (you could still call them record shops back then) and bought a cassette of the live album Love at the Greek. In the evenings, without a telly or telephone, I played that tape and read Battlefield Earth.

Since then I go through phases where I just have listen to Neil. The live albums make me wish I could be a showman like that. I have three (the aforementioned and both the 1972 and 1986 Hot August Night discs) and tonight I’m ordering a fourth, Live in America, because I found a great deal online.

Reconnecting With the Past

Of interests to guitarists and amputees (hence my excitement), while checking my Wikipedia watchlist, I found that a video link had been added to the Phil Keaggy article. It is recorded at Phil’s childhood home in Ohio and begins with him describing the accident while standing at the water pump that took off his finger. He then sits on the well housing and sings “Way Back Home”, the eponymous title track to his 1986 release.

The only downside is that the video window is very small. So small that Phil appears almost life-size. The whole thing is 11 MB and lasts 5:48.

Unlike Phil, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to I-65 near MLK and stand in the inside hard shoulder, even if I ever incorporate my experience into a song.